By  on February 6, 2012

NEW YORK — Many budding designers wonder if they have what it takes to make it in the fashion industry and now there is a city-funded crash course to put them to the test.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation and the Fashion Institute of Technology are launching Design Entrepreneurs NYC, a free, intensive, “mini-MBA” program to teach designers the necessary skills to run a fashion label. The initiative is one of six set forth by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Fashion NYC 2020 plan, which is designed to bolster the $55 billion fashion industry.

Up to 35 individuals will be accepted to the new program and each must have a New York City-based business that has been open for at least a year. Interested designers have until March 31 to submit applications. Once accepted, Design Entrepreneurs NYC participants will have free access to a number of FIT programs, including workshops, personal tours of The Museum at FIT, and lectures by iconic fashion figures.

Following the June 1 orientation, participants will attend classes for three consecutive weekends. From June through September, participants will fine-tune their business plans with input from instructors, before presenting their strategies to a panel of industry leaders. FIT was selected to manage and execute the program through an RFP last issued in May 2011. NYCEDC is investing $60,000 in the program. G-III Apparel Group’s president Jeanette Nostra will act as FIT’s industry liaison, and will serve as a mentor to the students, reviewing curriculum, bringing in guest speakers and hosting program events.

NYCEDC officials often note how New York City’s fashion industry employs 165,000 people, accounts for 5.5 percent of the city’s workforce and generates nearly $2 billion in tax revenue annually. In addition, more than 500,000 visitors come to the city each year to check out fashion-related trade shows, showrooms and stores. The Fashion NYC 2020 initiatives are meant to further the city’s position as a hub of innovation for emerging designers and retail, and to attract the next generation of design, management and merchant talent. The industry chairs for Fashion NYC 2020 are Richard Darling, chief executive officer of LF USA; Diane von Furstenberg; Terry Lundgren, chairman, president and ceo of Macy’s Inc.; Andrew Rosen, ceo of Theory, and Kevin Ryan, ceo of Gilt Groupe.

In other FIT-related news, the winner of the first Gilt.com/CFDA All-Star Scholarship is Kieran Dallison, a FIT senior. Both groups will help her develop a women’s collection that will be sold exclusively on Gilt.com in June.

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