So what really is the CFDA {FASHION INCUBATOR} program?


Last week, Johanna Stout, manager of the CFDA {FASHION INCUBATOR} program spoke at the Fashion Center BID's monthly Emerging Designer Group to talk about the initiative. In recent weeks, the {INCUBATOR} program has been in the news after the CFDA selected its new class of 10 talented designers. Already popular labels such as Number: Lab, Reece Hudson and The Burkman Brothers will enter the second wave of the program in hopes of making their mark on American fashion. With all this exciting news, we wanted to know what it takes to be selected as one of the industry's most promising talent. So what does the CFDA look for in a designer?

There are a number of requirements, but it first starts with a great product. Quality materials, solid construction and a unique, individual creative aesthetic must set oneself apart. Designers must be in business for at least two years and show promise of growth by mapping out their future plans. They should have traction in the marketplace through a solid retail presence and have garnered notable press from the fashion industry.

 What happens inside the {INCUBATOR} program?

The goal of the program is to foster and support these emerging designers during this two year period.  The CFDA says, "provide a creative professional environment to foster promising fashion talent, and help selected designers grow and sustain their business." The program consists of four parts:

1. Studio space in the heart of the Garment Center

Close to resources, factories and simply being in the epicenter of New York fashion, these designers are given the space they need to develop and produce their work in a supportive environment.

2. Lectures, Workshops and Seminars

The CFDA brings in various speakers from across the industry to give candid advice and relevant information in their respective area of expertise. These monthly events cover everything from writing a business plan, understanding financial statements, retail advice and how to work with the media.

3. Business Mentorships

This is an integral part of the program and starts with designers carving out their goals over the next two years. Designers are paired up with 3-5 mentors based on their objectives. Industry experts work closely with the designers to help them with everything from nailing down their business plan, legal advice, manufacturing and how to build their retail exposure and relationships.

4. Designer Storytelling

This may be one of the most exciting parts of the program. The CFDA has brought in some of their most iconic members such as Diane von Furstenberg, Norma Kamali and Nanette Lepore to share their stories of success, failures, inspiration and of course, infinite wisdom.

There were three key takeaways of this inspirational discussion. The first was learning about what the industry looks for in an emerging designer and how to implement those traits and accomplishments into a business. The second is realizing that success doesn't happen overnight and is built through focusing on all sectors of the industry to build a solid business.  Finally, it was encouraging to know how supportive a group, and industry is to the development of the future American fashion designers of tomorrow.

Emerging designer? Please feel free to contact me at