The Garment District Is Abuzz With Young Talent: Inside The CFDA Fashion Incubator
The New York fashion world has always distinguished itself from its Paris and Milan counterparts by nurturing young talent and focusing on the Next Big Things--and now, with the introduction of the CFDA Fashion Incubator, it has, according to jewelry designer Waris Ahluwalia, "put its money where its mouth is."
Designer, Bibhu Mohapatra
Back in October, Mayor Bloomberg and the CFDA announced that the new incubator program would give below-market-price studio space to emerging designers in the garment district (in addition to mentoring and "educational support") to help support the businesses of new talent in what the city deems and important industry. Just one month ago, the young designers (Alice Ritter; Waris Ahluwalia from House of Waris; Prabal Gurung; Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne of Public School; Bibhu Mohapatra; Grant Krajecki of Grey Ant; Rachel Dooley of Gemma Redux; Joel Diaz from Jolibe; Sang A Im-Propp of Sang A; Justin Giunta from Subversive Jewelry; Yuvi Alpert and Danna Kobo from Ruby Kobo, and Tom Scott.) moved in to their new spaces, and yesterday they invited reporters, bloggers, and editors to an open house to come check out the scene. The spaces are sparkling new, with exposed brick in each studio, polished concrete floors, and that shiny model-home smell that makes anything seem possible.
Alice Ritter recently made the move from her Brooklyn home studio to her shiny new midtown digs, and she said she's already feeling a major influence of being surrounded by so much talent in the heart of the city's fashion center. "The best part, by far," Alice told me, "is being here with my fellow incubator designers. It's actually intimidating. It makes me want to wake up in the morning and work harder. You know, it's not philanthropy here. They are supporting us in hopes that we will contribute back to the fashion community."
For Waris Ahluwalia, being part of the incubator program means he finally has a proper studio space in New York for his jewelry line, House of Waris. "My studio is usually in Rome, in Jaipur, in Bangkok, wherever I'm creating," he told me. "So its great to finally have a solid base of operations here in New York. The CFDA and the city have really put its money where its mouth is--they're giving us the support, the resources, it is just a great opportunity."
Prabal Gurung has already had a year filled with exciting opportunities--his recent CFDA nomination anddressing Michelle Obama twice among them--but moving into the incubator space means he can finally stretch his wings and put down some roots at the same time. "I was in my East Village studio before, which is a quarter the size of this space, and it was a live/work space," Prabal says. "Now, I just feel much more in touch with the fashion world. It's very encouraging, and to be around here, it's good energy and i feel more nurtured by the industry. Everything in my line is made in New York, and in all honesty, I'm not trying to be righteous about it but it's also about giving back to the industry that has given so much to me. It's a give and take situation. I feel like it's also important for me to give back and pave the way for more young designers. I want to set an example for the next batch of designers. I'm not just responsible to myself and my dreams and my aspirations--the industry believes in me, and I want to give back. And that can only, truly happen in new york. Nowhere else."