As an emerging fashion designer, surrounding yourself with people who support you plays a key part in helping you stay focused and motivated as you build your business. Finding these people can sometimes seem like a challenge but there are organizations that are dedicated to filling that role.
Fashion incubators were created to offer mentorship, networking opportunities, professional development, and sometimes studio space.
The opportunity to meet and work with a curated team of retail and fashion professionals as well as your fellow peers offers tremendous growth potential for your business.
We’ve compiled a short list of a few fashion incubators across the country. There are many more great incubators available, so feel free to share the ones in your city in the comments below!
New York City
The Council of Fashion Designers of America Fashion (CFDA) Incubator is the most well-known and one of the most prestigious incubators in the country. Backed by well-established design mentors and working in collaboration with fashion power houses such as VOGUE magazine, designers who get accepted into the CFDA program are exposed to major opportunities in the industry.
The Chicago Fashion Incubator (CFI) is headquartered in Macy’s on Slate Street and hosts shared offices for resident designers, a manufacturing resource center and showroom space along with equipment resources for designers. CFI’s connections to Macy’s and supportive creative environment offers the opportunity to network with buyers, retail executives, and other design professionals.
If you are on the west coast the Fashion Incubator San Francisco (FiSF), headquartered at Macy’s Union Square, offers Designers in Residence programs for six designers a year. It was formed in 2011 to help with mentorship and business resources for designers.
The Seattle Fashion Incubator (SFI) offers a few different opportunities for designers in the city to access tools to start or grow their fashion business. The Designer in Residence program takes on independent fashion brands full time, the Associate Resident program is open to designers in a part time capacity, and general members get access to free counseling by industry leaders and connections to marketing and PR opportunities.
The newly launched (March 2012) Philadelphia Fashion Incubator is in collaboration with the City of Philadelphia, Macy’s Center City, Center City District and other educational institutions in the fashion design community. Although only four designers are selected to be part of the Designers in Residence program, the Incubator is still a great go-to resource for designers to find out what’s going on in the city.