SPREADING THE NEWS: A clutch of American design talent landed in London this week as part of a promotional tour tied to the Council of Fashion Designers of America Fashion Incubator program.

CFDA chairman Diane von Furstenberg, president and chief executive officer Steven Kolb and W Hotels global brand leader Anthony Ingham were all on call to promote the 2014-16 scheme’s 10 designers in the British capital. They gathered at the city’s W Hotel to showcase the American talent to British buyers and media.

The two-year scheme affords emerging designers a subsidized showroom and studio space in Manhattan in addition to mentoring and support in all aspects of their businesses.

“It’s like grad school,” said Kolb, adding that the program takes in production, sourcing, sales, merchandising, point of view and pitching. “We put together a mock investment panel of industry insiders who evaluate their pitches. They don’t get actual investment — but they do get feedback.”

The partnership with W Hotels means that each designer gets to take an inspiration trip to an international city with a W Hotel. The group also hosts media showcases in key destinations including Los Angeles and Dallas.

“We work as an amplifier for the brands,” said Ingham. “It’s a symbiotic relationship; we get content for our media channels and the designers get a platform to reach our consumer group of wealthy well-traveled people all over the world.”

Notable success stories to emerge from previous years’ schemes include Prabal Gurung, Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne of Public School and Jonathan Simkhai. “I am the godmother of them all, but of course you develop relationships,” said von Furstenberg. “Prabal was in our first class, we became friends and went to Nepal together — I was on a trip in India so I met him there.”

The 2014-16 designers are Dana Arbib of A Peace Treaty, Sara Beltran of Dezso By Sara Beltran, Isa Tapia, Kaelen Haworth of Kaelen, Sarah Law of Kara, Katie Ermilio, Lucio Castro, Yara Flinn of Nomia, Misha Nonoo of Nonoo and Matthew, Alex and Samantha Orley of Orley.

Orley knitwear trio Alex, Matthew and Sam Orley started out with a collection of 10 men’s wear sweaters — working out of Matthew’s apartment. “Within a year we were in the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and nominated for the LVMH Prize. The experience has really been transformative for us,” said Alex. “Now we have a full men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collection. We’ve also just made a sweater for Justin Bieber — Karla Welch, his stylist, ordered it.”

Shoe designer Tapia went to Barcelona for her inspiration trip and designed a capsule collection inspired by Miró and Gaudí. “Lane Crawford picked it up and sold out and I’ve just done another one with The Outnet,” she said. For the London showcase, each designer collaborated with MAC Cosmetics, creating their own packaging and choosing products for it.

Tapia’s box features her signature illustrations. “I picked the Liquidlast Liner, lip gloss and nail polish as every girl that wears sandals wants to paint her nails,” she said. “It’s also an opportunity for us to think what other product categories might look like.”

Others took the CFDA sponsorship opportunity to explore new ways of showing. Nonoo, who has taken her brand fully digital since starting on the program, now works to a consumer-facing calendar. “My woman lives online,” she said. “I did the industry’s first-ever Insta show in September with 33 women from around the world, who hosted themselves wearing one of my pieces. The CFDA is great at listening to your ideas and supporting you.”

“We wanted to raise the issue that although fashion shows were once mostly for the trade, now with social media, nothing is just for the trade anymore,” said von Furstenberg. “We also wanted to alleviate the pressure on some smaller designers not to feel obligated to spend all their marketing money on fashion shows.

Kolb said that going forward, “We’ll see a lot of designers in New York doing different things.” Next step for Fashion Incubator is the announcement of the 2016-18 recipients next month. “Then we’ll go to the new W Hotel in Mexico in June and start it all over again.”

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