Fashion schools in New York City and nearby states produce a wealth of talented design students, many of whom have the potential to become internationally known, multi-awarded designers. But as a student, getting from your thesis showcase to a full-time design gig can seem like a daunting task.
The CFDA and the NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) recognize that, and have launched the Fashion Future Graduate Showcase to try and bridge that gap. Bringing together 60 students from fashion programs at Parsons, Pratt, FIT, RISD and Academy of Art University, the showcase curates the best of the graduating class of 2017's emerging talent and puts it all in one place. The space at Center415, which was unveiled on Tuesday, will be open to the public through May 25.
"This is important, because it's the first time we're able to bridge the talent [and] the workforce," CFDA CEO Steven Kolb told the students at a preview of the showcase on Tuesday. "So we're excited, and hope that through the almost 500 people that are going to come through the doors in the next few days, that there will be opportunities for you to really develop your careers and further your dreams as designers."
Kolb went on to explain that the showcase is directly in line with the CFDA's goal to nurture emerging talent in the industry, a goal shared by the NYCEDC.
"We're excited to partner with the CFDA to make sure that the talent pipeline is strong," said NYCEDC Center for Urban Innovation SVP Kate Daley. "It's a very important part of the city's economy. There are nearly 185,000 New Yorkers working within the fashion industry — that's almost 5 percent of the total New York City workforce. This is a very important industry and sector to us."
Public School designer Dao-Yi Chow was also on hand at the showcase opening to offer encouraging words to the students, asserting that he and his design partner Maxwell Osborne are "poster children" for what the industry — and specifically the CFDA — can do to help young designers propel their careers forward.
"We took advantage of every opportunity that came our way, starting with the [CFDA] incubator," he told students. "That's something I would want to impress on you as much as possible: Participate."
Chow was quick to add, however, the importance of continuing to "do you," no matter how many outside voices might weigh in — positively or negatively — on student work.
"Be very clear on what your point of view is, because that's the most important thing that you have as a designer and as a creative," he said. If they did so, he claimed, they would live up to the name of the showcase as the "future of the fashion industry."
"That's a big responsibility," Chow concluded. "So treat that responsibility really carefully. You guys will be the voice of tomorrow... I think you have the power to help people with what you do. If you keep that in mind, our industry will be in a really good place."