In December 2011, Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced details about The Philadelphia Fashion Incubator at Macy’s Center City, a new fashion design initiative devoted to supporting and promoting emerging fashion designers and encouraging local designers to keep their businesses in Philadelphia.
“I think the initiative of having a fashion incubator in the City of Philadelphia is long overdue.” says Cheryl Wadlington, Style Director of Evoluer Image Consultants, Founder of The Evoluer House, and author of The DivaGirl’s Guide to Style and Self-Respect. “Aside from the vast amount of talented individuals in Philadelphia, if there are no outlets that can promote and support them, and encourage them keep their businesses in Philadelphia, why would a designer want to maintain their fashion house in the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection?”
“The Philadelphia fashion community is growing so fast and so abroad!” says, celebrity fashion Stylist, Anthony Henderson and Founder of 17 Days of Fashion. “I am so happy for the city of Philadelphia because it now has the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator. Designers will now have the opportunity to be spotlighted and gain the education they so need.”
I think that this is an extraordinary idea as there is a lot of fashion talent that has emerged from Philadelphia which includes our favorites Tory Birch, Nicole Miller and who could forget Willi D. Smith!!! But there are also a lot of fashion designers that are making their footprint in the concrete world of fashion and that includes designers like Melani Von Alexandia, and Michael Thomas who caught my attention at the Philadelphia Fashion Week in September, 2011 with his Unfaithful fashion line.
A collaboration between The City of Philadelphia, Center City District, Macy’s Center City, and several educational institutions devoted to fashion design in Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Fashion Incubator at Macy’s Center City (PFI) is a non-profit organization that will provide four aspiring designers the workspace and essential business resources needed to run successful and sustainable fashion companies.
We all know that it is not easy to start a business but even harder is starting a business in the fashion industry and now four lucky designers will get the help that they need with provided workspace, a conference room, equipment and education courses that will help them become the next best fashion designer out of the City of Brotherly Love… and Fashion!
This great idea is modeled after a similar and successful program in Chicago between Macy’s State Street and The City of Chicago. The year-long residency program, which launches in Philadelphia in March 2012, the selected Designer-In-Residence will receive mentoring from industry and business professionals along with a significant schedule of monthly workshops focused on the business of fashion. Workshops will include topics on creating a business plan, marketing strategy, and identifying legal needs and funding. The tailored curriculum will be offered by community leaders, industry experts and fashion insiders.
This kind of hands-on education is necessary when it comes to fashion, especially when striving to compete in the fashion capitol New York City. According to Ms. Wadlington, “The feedback that I have also gotten over the years from leading industry insiders about Philadelphia fashion hopefuls is: ‘You can’t tell them anything.’ ‘They think they know it all’, and ‘They don’t invest in educating themselves about the business side of fashion.’ With the institution of a fashion indicator, we can eventually shift these negative perceptions that outsiders have of us.
“Philadelphia is a fertile breeding ground for the creative class. We are fortunate to have some of the best educational institutions in the country, and The Philadelphia Fashion Incubator will cultivate and nurture these talented fashion designers that have emerged from these institutions,” said Mayor Nutter. “The Philadelphia Fashion Incubator is the first of its kind in Philadelphia and the initiative represents the City’s commitment to a thriving, innovative creative economy.”
The 600+-square foot Project Runway-inspired production room, showroom and office space will be located at Macy’s Center City in the historic Wanamaker Building. The space will allow DIR to produce samples, gain valuable retail insight, and showcase their collections to merchants from local and national retailers. In addition to workspace and monthly business workshops, DIR will also participate in various fashion events throughout the year including pop-up shops, trunk shows and a fashion show during The Philadelphia Collection.
“This will definitely help catapult some up and coming new designers.” says Anthony Henderson.
I look forward to interviewing and sharing information with the DIR’s as they will definitely be looking for exposure that will reach the many fashionistas that love reading and embracing new artists.
“Philadelphia Fashion Incubator at Macy’s Center City is going to go a long way in finding the next generation of local fashion design talent” says Martine Reardon, executive vice president of Marketing & Advertising of Macy’s. “The fashion and retail industries thrive when new creative talent emerges and energizes the marketplace. By introducing aspiring designers to the inner workings of the fashion and retail business, and providing them a workshop filled with the resources that will get their businesses off the ground, Philadelphia will become a key city in the American fashion industry. We are pleased to partner with The City of Philadelphia and Center City District on the creation of this unique entrepreneurial program here in Philadelphia”.
I can just imagine how many designers from Philadelphia that wish they had such experience! This is an amazing step for the city and there is no telling the success that will come from this program and who will be the next top designer and owe their greatness to the city.
“So many of us native Philadelphians, who were groomed and educated in New York by some of the most legendary names in fashion, never wanted to step foot back in Philadelphia because there was no support,” Cheryl Wadlington. “For me, the fashion incubator provides the energy the creative community needs to recharge and move forward. It will inspire people to step outside of their comfort zone and understand that fashion is a business and multibillion dollar industry.”
DIR will be selected by PFI’s Selection Committee which consists of six professionals from Philadelphia’s fashion and business sectors. Each of the participating academic partners (Drexel University, Moore College of Art & Design, and Philadelphia University) will recommend three to five of their alumni as candidates for the DIR seats. From that slate of candidates, the selection committee will choose one alumni from each school as a DIR. The fourth DIR will be selected through an open call opportunity. Effective today, aspiring designers from the eight-county tri-state area will have the opportunity to apply for the spot. The full application with program overview and eligibility guidelines is now available online (link below).
“We are extremely excited to launch this initiative in Philadelphia,” said Michelle Shannon, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Center City District. “To have the ability to support local fashion design talent and nurture new wholesale and retail business in our city sends a strong message that Philadelphia is indeed an emerging fashion design center.”
“I too, am very excited that there is another component to spotlight designers to propel them to the top do that Philadelphia can shine as fashion city.” Anthony said.
Sponsors of The Philadelphia Fashion Incubator at Macy’s Center City include: The City of Philadelphia, Center City District, Macy’s Center City, Philadelphia University, Drexel University, Moore College of Art & Design, TD Bank, The Jones Group, SA VA, Fashion Group International Philadelphia and LevLane.
To learn more about sponsorship opportunities, program details, and application process for The Philadelphia Fashion Incubator at Macy’s Center City, please visit www.philadelphiafashionincubator.com!
Join the conversation on twitter @philaincubator or www.facebook.com/philadelphiafashionincubator!
Photo Credit: Jim Cottingham