We visited the CFDA Incubator (where 10 hand-picked emerging designers are provided with studio space--which they still pay for at a monthly rent--and mentoring for about two years) for a market day during fashion week and kind of didn’t want to leave. There were lots of positive vibes.
In addition to checking out the latest from designers like Timo Weiland, Daniel Vosovic, Whit and Isaora, we decided to try and find out what it's like to work in a shared space with a bunch of other designers--something designers don't really do, unless they're on Project Runway (though PR alum Vosovic tells us this is totally different).
“The most fun for me is feeling a little bit like I'm back in college and having the comradery of other people you can relate to," Vosovic told us in the hallway of the communal studio space. "I love it. I'm a very collaborative designer anyway so it's nice to be like, 'Whit, what do you think of this collar? I hate it. Do you like it?'” However, he insists it's nothing like Project Runway. "Project Runway is more competitive. You're competing for the same prize. Emanuela [Duca] and I aren't competing for the same prize; Isaora and I aren't competing for the same prize, so it feels more like college than anything else."
Timo Weiland described it similarly. "It's almost like a campus environment, which is great. It's been really really fun. We're all really good friends--varying degrees--but everyone's really nice. Like colleagues."
Though everyone we talked to seemed to enjoy the designer community, Isaora designer Marc Daniels said things weren't always so chummy, admitting the vibe was a little "high school-y" at first with designers sizing each other up in the beginning.
It’s not all play and no work, though. As is intended, the Incubator has been a learning experience for all involved. In addition to work space, each designer is assigned business mentors through a partnership with NYU’s Stern Consulting Corps (a selected group of NYU Stern M.B.A. students). Weiland said the most important thing he's learned so far was "to stay edited and focused."
Jewelry designer Emanuela Duca said she's gotten valuable advice on everything from merchandising to sourcing materials. Vosovic explained, "The biggest thing I've learned is basically [to] have a purpose for why you're doing something; so whether you're spending money, promoting something, always make sure it has a final point as to why you're doing all of it and that [lesson] comes from five mentors every season saying, 'Why'd you do this and why did you do that?'"
Hmm... Sounds kind of like a student advisor, doesn't it?