The CFDA has announced the newest class of designers joining its Fashion Incubator program, selected by a panel of industry experts with established backgrounds in retail, media and business. For the next two years, the designers will have access to affordable studio space in the Garment District, an eight-month MBA program with NYU's Stern School of Business, seminars, mentorships and networking opportunities. The purpose of the program is to help these designers build their brands' businesses, which spans from developing retail, marketing and branding strategies to becoming more knowledgable of finance, cost and production.
So without further ado, get to know the CFDA Fashion Incubator's 4.0 class of 2018:
New York-based Molly Yestadt launched her line of hats that mix classic craftsmanship and modern style in 2008. She's collaborated on exclusive runway pieces with Marc Jacobs, 3.1 Phillip Lim, The Row and Public School and her designs are available at stores such as Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales and Anthropologie.
Brothers Tim and Dan Joo launched Haerfest, a streetwear-leaning brand of minimalist men's accessories, after following very different career paths: Tim studied design at Parsons and FIT and worked for Patrick Ervell and Opening Ceremony, while Dan studied engineering and worked at IBM. Their cool, functional bags are now sold everywhere from Barneys to OC to Havery Nichols.
Launched in 2013, Thaddeus O'Neil's cool, après-surf "playwear" has already brought him to the finals of the 2015 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and the International Woolmark Prize. O'Neil found an early supporter in none other than Anna Wintour, who encouraged him to branch out into womenswear. Oh, and Bruce Weber shot his portrait as a child — nbd.
Katie Degusman and Michael Miller met at Parsons in 2000 studying furniture design, but it wasn't until 10 years later that they partnered to launch a jewelry line, now completely handmade in their Brooklyn studio. They use oxidized metals, fish jaws, arrowheads and other organic, sustainable materials that result in sculptural, sleek and edgy designs.
After launching in Jan. 2013, Aurora James's "It" footwear brand Brother Vellies has been no stranger to mentorship programs. Back in November, the Brooklyn-based label became one of three winners of 2015's CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, and it's currently a finalist for the CFDA + Lexus Fashion* Initiative. To this day, James sources her materials from South Africa, Kenya and Morocco, often visiting workshops in those locales.
Founded in 2014 by designer Daniel Ddugoff (who studied architecture Washington University in St. Louis), this menswear label is full of what he calls "unbasic basics." Signatures include subtle color palettes with a mix of livelier graphics and patterns.
Ji Oh may have only debuted in 2014, but the New York-made womenswear label is already carried at big-name retailers like Barneys. The Korean-born, Parsons-trained designer works heavily in minimalistic, sleek silhouettes that often sway more gender-neutral than women's-specific, while also being incredibly comfortable, versatile and sophisticated.
With degrees from Central Saint Martins and Parsons as well as design gigs at Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Gareth Pugh on his resumé, Charles Youssef made his buzzy debut on the New York Fashion Week Calendar for spring 2015. He's been impressing us with his feminine, thoughtful, subtly Japanese-inspired collections ever since. Barneys bought his first collection, but he'll need more stockists to stay in business, and the Incubator will help him get there.
It often signals good business sense when a designer finds a niche and focuses on just one product done really well. Alexandra Alvarez did this with the bodysuit in 2014, after graduating Parsons. They all have a snap crotch (so you don't have to take them off to pee!) and she recently expanded into swimwear.
Design partners Julie and Jason Alkire launched high-end womenswear label Haus Alkire in 2012 and have since received a slew of industry recognition, including winning both the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation Award in 2012 and The Fashion Group International Rising Star Award in 2015. The brand is known for its architectural and artistic styles, often embodying abstract themes — like Anthropomorphism for its fall 2016 collection.