Responding to a cultural climate where it’s increasingly important for businesses to take a stance on social issues (see Brands Take a Stand), two major retailers have launched global talent incubators to bolster their ethical credentials.
- Asos Supports Talent: UK fashion e-tailer Asos launched Asos Supports Talent in 2016 to fund and mentor emerging artists and entrepreneurs, nurturing otherwise unachievable projects. Notably, according to Rachel Bremer, head of communications at Asos, artists engaged in raising (often contentious) issues generate the most interest. Examples include Chicago-based Peruvian photographer Elizabeth De La Piedra, who documented the life of a trans woman of colour in California in 2016.
One of 2017’s freshly unveiled initiatives is Gal-dem – a magazine/collective of 70 UK-based women of colour. It used the funding to create an audio-visual poetry exhibition exploring what ‘home’ means to 10 women of colour in Britain. Allowing the artists to remain in control of their projects is key to establishing legitimacy with Asos’s audience, said Bremer: “Young people have little trust in government or other institutions, but they still have trust in brands.” Not yet commercialised, Asos measures the success of projects based on social impressions and commentary.
- Ikea Bootcamp: Launched in June 2017, Ikea Bootcamp gives 10 start-ups focused on “creating affordable products with a positive impact on society” €20,000 ($22,315) plus three months’ access to Ikea’s prototype shop, test lab and experts. The areas of innovation it’s seeking to support include food, disruptive technologies, customer experience, sustainability and manufacturing.
See also Feminism-Fuelled Retail and Topshop & Asos: Tech Accelerators.