Charles Youssef, Ji Oh, Thaddeus O’Neil, Julie Alkire, Aurora James and Jason Alkire


Five of the 10 brands in the CFDA Fashion Incubator Class of 2018 presented mini shops to buyers and consumers on Nov. 16 at a cocktail party at the W Dallas Victory Hotel.

Designers Aurora James of Brother Vellies, Ji Oh, Thaddeus O’Neil, Charles Youssef, and Julie Haus and Jason Alkire of Haus Alkire were squired by CFDA president and chief executive officer Steven Kolb and a phalanx of public relations and marketing executives representing W Hotels Worldwide, an incubator sponsor.

The event attracted a diverse crowd, including Forty Five Ten women’s creative and fashion director Taylor Tomasi Hill, Elements creative director Stevie Moore, and local designers Tendai Tawonezvi of Neobantu and Lisa Moore of Cover Clothing.

“I’m trying to get more young designers [in Forty Five Ten],” said Hill, who has championed emerging talent throughout her career. “You want them all but you can’t support them all. Here you can see and feel and talk to them.”

Stevie Moore also found a lot to like. “Charles has really beautiful cotton shirting, and that category is taking off for us,” she observed. “I’m obsessed with Brother Vellies shoes and bags, and Haus Alkire has amazing fabric integrity. Their price points feel justified, and I really respect that.”

It was the fifth time that CFDA and W Hotels have brought incubator residents to Dallas to raise visibility and court retail accounts. CFDA executive vice president Lisa Smilor said she hopes the organization will return twice next year.

“Dallas would be my number-one place because I’ve been all over, and this is where the energy is,” Smilor said. “Everything that is successful now as a personal element to it. We plan to bring designers here, so you will be seeing CFDA members in Dallas.”

The two-day tour featured visits to the new Forty Five Ten flagship, Traffic Los Angeles, Tenoversix, Neiman Marcus downtown, Stanley Korshak and Elements. The group also took in the Bruce Weber exhibit at the Dallas Contemporary and private art gallery The Warehouse.

“We’re all in love with Forty Five Ten,” Youssef said. “It’s so beautifully curated, and Taylor is awesome.”

“Obviously, people love to dress here,” observed O’Neil, who sells the bulk of his casual unisex togs and men’s swimwear in Japan. “It’s casual, off-beat and eccentric. We saw a bunch of stores, and Forty Five Ten was astounding — one of the most beautiful stores I’ve seen.”

All six designers praised the incubator program, which links them with top industry mentors and provides assistance with a broad range of business issues including factories, importing, exporting and staffing. The rent for their cluster of studio spaces is discounted.

“It’s good to struggle together and share a lot of ideas together,” said Oh, who prioritizes comfort in her distinctive white shirts and sportswear. “I wish it was three years instead of two. It’s like a classroom.”

“Winning the [CFDA Vogue] Fashion Fund was amazing, but at the incubator the focus is on the designer as entrepreneur,” James noted. “You can be an epic designer, but if you are not a business person then you’re not in an amazing place.”

“Before in fashion there was a model that everyone followed, and now it’s so individual,” Haus said. “We all talk all the time and at the end of the day you’re all just trying to survive.”

All of the designers produce their fashions in New York except for Brother Vellies, whose furry sustainable shoes and bags are crafted in Africa.

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