The CFDA Incubator's second class held an open house for editors and buyers in its 209 West 38th Street workspace yesterday. The group, announced back in August, includes Arielle Shapiro of Ari Dein, Daniel Vosovic, Doug and Ben Burkman of Burkman Bros, Christian Cota, Emanuela Duca, Luis Fernandez of NUMBER:Lab, Reece Solomon of Reece Hudson, Ricky Hendry and Marc Daniels of Isaora, Timo Weiland and Alan Eckstein of Timo Weiland, and Whitney Pozgay of WhiT — who managed to squeeze in after some of the original names dropped out. (Antonio Azzuolo and the Lake & Stars mysteriously disappeared from the roster at some point.) The third floor "fishbowl" or "dorms" — as many of them refer to it, with its wood floors, brick walls, and multiple break rooms — is a welcome change for the designers, as most operated out of their apartments prior to moving in last month. The CFDA even secured them each a reduced rent of $2,000 per month — this is still New York, after all.
The class has actually been hard at work since September. Johanna Stout, manager of the Fashion Incubator explained, "We have a partnership with NYU Stern [School of Business]. We really noticed that the designers, they’re not business people, you know? ... So for nine months we paired them with an MBA student and an adviser from the industry to work on their financials before they even moved in. We're like, let's clean up the financials, let's get you a business plan, and then you can move into the incubator." Once settled into their studios, the designers were assigned mentors who will guide them through the next two years — a group of about 25 industry vets from Moda Operandi, Steven Alan, Bloomingdale's, Saks, Rocawear, and more. Though they have time left to incubate, some of the crew is already reaping the rewards of the program. The Burkman Bros, for example, won a $10,000 prize from a group of angel investors for the best presentation of a business plan created with help of NYU students. Not bad! Read some tidbits from our conversations with the new wave of designers below.
Arielle Shapiro of Ari Dein on working with business students from NYU: "You can run out of money; it's so easy. A store pays you 30 days late and you owe ... There are times it gets very thin. So it's very nice to have people who can help you forecast and plan for those times so that you're covered and can continue to produce, and there are no hang-ups."
Ben Burkman of Burkman Bros on who he's looking forward to meeting: "I just got word yesterday that Linda Evangelista is coming in to speak with us at some point in the future, and I think that would be pretty exciting if that happens. And I'm looking forward meeting Diane von Furstenberg because we haven't met her yet."
Christian Cota on his goals for the next two years: "I'm looking forward to really restructuring ... to having a team in place. One of my main goals is to find a business partner. Especially when you spend so much time creating things, I have to have time to research, and paint, to have someone who's [just focused on] the business side."
Daniel Vosovic on the potential of the program: "It's been a month, and it's sick the amount of upward trajectory this whole thing has built in. You bring the product, bring a smile, bring hard work, ethic, and it's hard not to feel like big things are going to come."
Emanuela Duca on feedback from her mentors: "We are exposed to so much [information], you know? Things that I didn't think about. We get these meetings with our mentors and ... they can point out some things that might not be nice to hear about, but in your heart you know that [they're true]."
Marc Daniels of Isaora on learning to share: "I think it's cool, this collaborative space. There’s an element of having to share with people, which isn't a problem, but it's a change. It's a little bit like a dorm in that if you leave something outside, you get in trouble a little bit. But that's like normal common courtesy."
Luis Fernandez of NUMBER:Lab on the perks of common space: "There's a lot of cupcakes that get put on the front table or chocolates, and then there's an e-mail thread that everyone's on. That's actually kind of fun because they're serious, but then there's the fun e-mails every now and then too."
Reece Solomon of Reece Hudson on her new digs: "Previously I was working out of my apartment, so it's really nice to have a showroom and office space that's separate — that feels a lot legit for me. It's nice to cultivate a space that's just my showroom, to give it more of a brand feeling."
Timo Weiland on leaving his last workspace: "I was in our old studio, just looking around I was like, Yay, we can go somewhere else! You know, as much as I did love our old studio, it just was time to move on. It was just so packed."
Whitney Pozgay of WHiT on how she found out she was accepted into the program: "We actually found out a little later. We were the eleventh [spot] of the ten [spaces], and then someone decided to not to it, so we were added. It was exciting, we actually found out a little closer to Christmas. We were working, and we had had a really horrible day. It was one of those days when nothing went right, the wrong fabric shipped or something, and we were trying to problem solve, and then we got that call. My business partner goes, 'There's a message on the machine from the CFDA Incubator,' and I was like, 'Really?' ... I called them, and we were crazy, just jumping up and down, like, This is a Christmas miracle! Being very dramatic."