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Seattle Fashion Incubator Helps Emerging Designers Succeed

When it comes to talking fashion, we often find ourselves talking about New York.  It’s not because we’re biased, really it’s not.  It’s most likely because, currently, most of our team is based in NYC.  With that said, we are really doing our best to branch out and one of our first steps was to have a little chat with the Seattle Fashion Incubator, an amazing initiative for the emerging designer community in, you guessed it, Seattle!

Seattle Fashion Incubator

Amid the his crazy schedule Steven Matsumoto, a force behind SFI, took the time to answer some questions about what they’re doing and how you, as designers, can get involved.

StUF: What is the Mission of the Seattle Fashion Incubator?

SFI: The goal of Seattle Fashion Incubator (SFI) is to provide emerging fashion brands with the ideal environment to develop and grow their business.

SFI intends to be a unifying symbol for the fashion industry in the Pacific Northwest. It will offer accessible and affordable design space, access to capital, specialty goods, professional mentorship and industry specific presentation space.

StUF: What are some of the resources offered by SFI?

SFI: Currently SFI can assist designers through the following services:

  • Access to business mentorship and counseling services
  • Professional development workshops and seminars
  • Trade show and marketing opportunities
  • Wholesale, Retail and E-commerce opportunities
  • Microfinance and business financing assistance
  • Sales representation
  • Group Purchasing Power

Upon the successful completion of our current fund-raising efforts SFI will be able to offer:

  • Professional showroom, design and meeting space
  • Autometrix Cutter/Plotter
  • OptiTex 2D/3D CAD software

Applicants seeking admission to the Seattle Fashion Incubator are required to:

  • Reside in the Puget Sound Area – which includes the following counties: King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Kitsap.
  • Be 21 years of age or older.
  • Provide a minimum of three (3) images of your garments. Ideally work that best reflects your vision for your brand. If called back for an interview plan to show these samples.
  • Have already started a fashion business.
  • Be able to commit to SFI completely, utilizing all available resources, similar to a full-time job.

StUF: How can young designers utilize SFI?  What are the requirements and commitments?

SFI: SFI will provide three different levels of services:

Designer in Residence: This is a full time program designed to take qualified emerging fashion brands to the next level.

The Associate Resident program is also available to those businesses that are reasonably well established and may only require SFI’s services on a part-time basis to overcome a specific business challenge

General Member: SFI membership is for new designers and small home based businesses to give them the tools to plan or grow their existing businesses without costly trial and error mistakes.

You can find out more on the Services Page of the SFI website.

Eligibility ~ Applicants seeking admission to the Seattle Fashion Incubator are required to:

  • Reside in the Puget Sound Area – which includes the following counties: King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Kitsap.
  • Be 21 years of age or older.
  • Provide a minimum of three (3) images of your garments. Ideally work that best reflects your vision for your brand. If called back for an interview plan to show these samples.
  • Have already started a fashion business.
  • Be able to commit to SFI completely, utilizing all available resources, similar to a full-time job.

StUF: What might people find surprising to learn about the fashion industry in Seattle? Both from the manufacturing perspective and the consumer perspective?

SFI: According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics (2010) Seattle has the fourth highest concentration of fashion designers in the country. Seattle is also home to major apparel brands such as Tommy Bahama, Eddie Bauer, ExOfficio, Filson, Shah Safari, Beyond Threads and of course Nordstrom.

StUF: Who are some of the most promising young designers coming out of Seattle today?

SFI: It’s so difficult answering this question because there are so many!  A few off the top of my head include,  for men’s wear, Francisco Hernandez of Built for Man, the team at Tarboo, Inc. and Michael Cepress.  For women’s wear there’s Jesica Milton, Cameron Levin, Bri Seeley, Mindy Spicer, House of Mess, and so many more.

StUF: What is on the horizon for SFI?

SFI: Right now we are in full blown fund raising mode.

Long term we want to establish a Garment District for Seattle.  The reason there is a perception that there isn’t a substantial industry presence in Seattle is because it’s so fragmented and scattered.  A Garment District in Seattle would serve to unite the industry and show its true economic footprint.

Seattle has a great port system, excellent relationships with Asia, a highly literate workforce and compared to New York rents are dirt cheap.  I’d love to see Portland and B.C. join us in this mission.  Maybe we can convince some of our east coast colleagues to make the move west in the process too!

To stay in the loop, check out  SFI on Twitter and Facebook

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Nicole is the founder of StartUp FASHION, an online community and support system for independent designers around the world. She’s a traveler, a weaver, and a foodie. A deep love for the craft of fashion pared with an adamant belief that success is defined by the individual, led her to found StartUp FASHION were she helps independent designers and makers screw the traditional fashion business rules, create their own paths, and build businesses they truly love. More than anything else, she’s in the business of encouragement and works every day to remind makers and designers that they have something special to offer the world and that they can, in fact, do this thing!