After graduating from Philadelphia University with a degree in fashion design, Kaitlyn Doherty thought she would make the obvious move: head to New York and begin her career in fashion. As an undergraduate, she had several successes; receiving the Young Spirit Award for Excellence in Childrenswear at Philadelphia University’s annual spring fashion show and winning the Best Student Made Handbag Inspired by the Colors of vitaminwater at the Independent Handbag Designer Awards were just a slew of her accolades.
Upon graduation, she stayed in Philadelphia and continued to work on her handbag line Kaitlyn Doherty, and even landed them in a few boutiques in Philadelphia. During this time, she also applied to the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator program, a non-profit in collaboration with the City of Philadelphia, Macy’s Center City and local educational resources to help designers create, launch and sustain their fashion brand. Kaitlyn tells us, “I had heard about the one they did in Chicago, but was not aware they were starting one in Philadelphia as well. I have always wanted to start a clothing collection, and this opportunity came at the right time for me. I recently started my handbag company, and was basically learning how to run a business as I went along. I knew that this would be an invaluable experience, and I had to at least try!”
After a thorough application process, her talent and past wins landed her one of three spots into the one year program. The focused curriculum includes sessions on various topics like retail pricing, marketing, merchandising, financials and many other topics that are necessary to run a business. Designers share studio space at Macy’s Center City location and have access to sewing machines, dress forms and desk space. To keep focused and ensure commitment to the program, they are required to work a minimum of 35 hours a week. In addition to classes, designers are paired with a mentor, work closely with the program director and will participate in trunk shows and pop-up shows throughout the year.
A month in, they’ve already been introduced to many facets of the industry; a visit to the Nicole Miller store to learn about the retail environment, buying calendars and merchandising, along with a trip to the Penn Law Symposium, introducing them to the world of copyrights and patents. Kaitlyn says that she’s already learned so much and honed in on her aesthetic. After designing a dress for the incubator press conference with silk sari fabrics, she plans to use Indian textiles for her collection that will debut at their September fashion show. Aside from making samples, she’s creating her business plan and continuing to work on her handbags, while loving every minute of the opportunity. “I love Philadelphia, I grew up close to the city, I went to school in the city, and now I am working in the city!”
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