By  on September 10, 2012

When it comes to the question of “Nature vs. Nurture,” being a natural talent sure helps in the design world. But a little nurturing doesn’t hurt either. Through its numerous mentoring programs, young designers get expert advice from more established designers and companies. “It’s an investment in the future of the industry,” says CFDA’s Steven Kolb. “By giving these designers the skills, the mentoring and the resources to become big American brands, we’re helping them with their success, and it creates this cycle of giving back. When they’re at that point, they’ll be conditioned to do the same. It only helps the industry.” Several of these programs have been established in collaboration with Vogue, such as the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Awards. “After 9/11, both the CFDA and Vogue shared an impulse to immediately do something to help young designers who were struggling in the aftermath of that terrible moment,” says Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour. “But not long after that, the idea of a more long-term strategy to establish and nurture a new generation of American designers with global reach began to take shape—that being proactive was the only way forward. Out of that the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund was established. I’m enormously proud of what it has achieved, and I’m equally proud that the likes of Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang, Joseph Altuzarra, Eddie Borgo, Rodarte, Monique Péan and Pamela Love have so brilliantly repaid our belief in them.” Many established designers participate in various mentoring programs. “The CFDA played an instrumental role in the success of so many designers,” says Elie Tahari. “We’ve partnered to promote select CFDA jewelry designers by featuring their product in our East Hampton boutique, allowing me to give up-and-coming designers a platform for people to see their work, which has brought me great happiness.” Kenneth Cole adds, “In addition to providing designers with mentorship, guidance and exposure critical to their success, the CFDA offers valuable resources that enable newer, younger companies to become more viable.” CFDA’s splashy shout-out to drive retail business, Fashion’s Night Out, got its start in September 2009. It collaborated with Vogue, New York & Co. and the city of New York on the shopping extravaganza, which aimed to help restore consumer confidence and drum up retail sales in New York in the midst of the recession that started in 2008. Now in its fourth year, the shopping event has become an international phenomenon that’s expanded to 19 markets worldwide. Here are several key CFDA initiatives to boost business and nurture the next generation of talent. FASHION'S NIGHT OUT The original mission of 2009’s Fashion’s Night Out was to get New Yorkers excited about shopping again, after staring down a recession for almost a year. It turned into one giant global scene. Its fourth edition was slated to take place on Sept. 6. It was Wintour’s idea, along with Diane von Furstenberg’s, to enlist the support of Mayor Bloomberg. About 1,000 stores across the city’s five boroughs stayed open late—most until 11 p.m.—and hosted special events with entertainers, models and fashion stars. In some neighborhoods, it has become a huge block party with Champagne flowing and celebrity watching galore. Among those expected to make appearances this time around were Kim Kardashian, Solange Knowles, Matchbox Twenty, Jessica Seinfeld, Kelly Rutherford and Jennifer Hudson. The event was accompanied by a special Fashion’s Night Out collection, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the New York City AIDS Fund in the New York Community Trust. About 250 cities in the U.S. are now involved in FNO, as well as online. It impacts sales for some retailers, while for others, it’s a marketing opportunity that draws customers who might not otherwise go into their stores. Kolb acknowledges there are pros and cons, and some designers have complained. “You’ve got people getting ready for their shows. It creates gridlock. But overall, it’s been a really positive thing…. It happens, it’s over and everybody can get back to work,” says Kolb. “We’re creating a new national holiday, and you can feel the energy and buzz.”


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