NEW YORK — Young designers participating in the CFDA Fashion Incubator program had their day at Bloomingdale’s on Wednesday, when they toured the 59th Street flagship and mingled with the store’s top brass and fashion office executives over sliders and mac and cheese at Flip.
It was a sign that Bloomingdale’s wants to tighten ties to young and emerging designers and brands and work harder to sell more of what’s new and different.
It was also a clear indication that Tony Spring is raising his fashion profile since becoming the retailer’s chairman and chief executive officer in February, spending more time shopping the markets, attending fashion weeks, seeking exclusives and meeting designers.
“Part of the role of any new ceo, if you want to run a successful fashion retailer, is to get out to where the product is,” Spring told WWD. “The good news is that I love fashion. I love listening to designers talk about [what] they’re making, what fabrics they’re using. They really want buyers to be buyers and to really curate an assortment that’s right for our customers. We want strong partnerships, newness and exclusivity. There is an opportunity for us to be a more complete department store.”
The CFDA Fashion Incubator event was a first at Bloomingdale’s, initiated by Spring and Kevin Harter, the store’s men’s fashion director. Events like these, said Spring, are “expected and a necessity to be a credible fashion store.”
The incubator program provides inexpensive space for new designers at 209 West 38th Street, an educational program, a host of mentors such as industry veterans Andrew Rosen and Susan Sokol that counsel the designers in such areas as production, merchandising, styling, product and financing, and networking opportunities. It’s a two-year program subsidizing the designers.
“The CFDA gives us a platform to discover new talent and really engage with designers personally,” said Brooke Jaffe, operating vice president and women’s ready-to-wear fashion director. “The key to our success is constantly looking for new talent. Our customer is driven by newness.”
“Bloomingdale’s was fast to pick us up — among the first,” said Misha Nonoo of the three-year-old advanced contemporary collection called Nonoo, sold on Bloomingdale’s fourth floor. “We’ve got two racks, mannequins, my name is there — it’s a great presentation,” said Nonoo. “I hope we can sell more doors.”
At the incubators, “Aesthetically, we all have very different product,” said Kaelen Haworth, owner and creative director of Kaelen. Though she hasn’t yet landed her line in Bloomingdale’s, she hardly seemed discouraged. She sells Hudson’s Bay and specialty stores in North America and after touring the women’s floors of Bloomingdale’s, obviously had some ideas for the future. “It was really interesting to see what I need to do if I wanted to be on the fourth floor.”