NEW YORK — Note to designers fresh from fashion school — don't get accustomed to a life without extracurricular activities just yet.
More so than ever, young designers are required to look beyond their own collections and put in overtime elsewhere to make a living in fashion, from creating private label collections for retail chains to consulting on Web sites or making restaurant uniforms.
The concept isn't altogether new. Marc Jacobs has been designing for Louis Vuitton since 1997, and Michael Kors had a six-and-a-half-year gig at Celine, which ended last year. In Europe, Stella McCartney designs activewear for Adidas, Alexander McQueen makes footwear for Puma, and Christian Lacroix puts his spin on anything from trains to hotels and airplane uniforms.
But with New York's young designers, moonlighting now seems as ubiquitous as needles and thread.
Zac Posen leads the pack with several cobranded deals, from limited-edition jeans with Seven For All Mankind to tights for Wolford and driving gloves for Jaguar. Derek Lam is unveiling his first apparel collection for Tod's in Paris this week, while Proenza Schouler's Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez are said to be working on a watch for Movado. As Four designed apparel for Kate Spade; Richard Chai is consulting creative director for Onward Kashiyama's new Nave collection; Tara Subkoff designs shoes for Easy Spirit, and Christopher Deane's duo Christopher Crawford and Angela Deane are the designers behind Freda, the in-house label for London boutique chain Matches.
An industry executive said a young American designer can earn a base rate of up to $500,000, and, depending on the nature of the deal, additionally cash in on royalties, from a percentage of overall sales to financial compensations for personal appearances and editorial and advertising usage rights. Then the corporations also often help designers with staging the fashion show. That's quite a lot of ka-ching, particularly for young, cash-strapped designers who survive from collection to collection and whose annual sales can be less than $1 million.
Designers looking to make the leap from a small name to a Seventh Avenue player arguably face more challenges than their established peers did decades ago. Department stores are struggling and often only try a new name if it's on consignment; manufacturing costs are rising, particularly for those sourcing in Europe, and putting on a runway show is nearly impossible without the help of a corporate sponsor. It has virtually become impossible for a small designer to be self-financed, and rather than give up their independence and sell their names, many are now opting to take on secondary projects.
Issa Rae stopped by WWD's NYC headquarters to talk about season two of "Insecure," which premieres this Sunday on HBO. Click link in bio for all the details. #wwdeye (📷: @jgreenery; Styled by @mayteallende)
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"