Emerging designers have a tough gig. While launching a brand has never been easy, commercial saturation of social media channels, the need for constant messaging, and heightened demand for product by consumers and retail buyers, young designers are encountering huge room for fatal errors. Enter Jodi Sandman, founder and chief executive officer of Crescala Fashion Development, a firm that’s predicated on championing burgeoning talent and mentoring up-and-coming brands.
Heralding from lines such as Sachin & Babi, Ralph Lauren, Theory and Elie Tahari, the former retail executive turned her sights to nurturing young talent. During the UBM Fashion Edit trade show, Sandman explained the vision for her agency, how to launch a new line, and the importance of timing for emerging brands.
WWD: What does a trade show like Edit mean for young designers?
Jodi Sandman: We choose the Edit part of the show because Coterie is a massive show with massive brands and huge numbers of booths. What we love about the Edit part of Coterie is that it’s a very edited part of the show — there’s a lot of newness and new designs. We encourage our designers to come here to be seen. We really want to be highlighted amongst all of the other brands here. It’s important to not just rely on showroom appointments, but really to be seen out and for people to be able to see what we do.
WWD: How do you go about selecting the designers from the firm that you want to present in the trade show?
J.S.: We try really hard not to have designers that are too new. We want to make sure that they’re in a position to ship, and they’re in a position to really show the best of what they do and the ethos in their collections. We also like to make sure that we bring brands that are special, that really stand out, and that really will be seen when people are walking by the aisle.
WWD: What does a show like Edit mean to a designer who’s ready to take the next step?
J.S.: What we love about the Edit part of the show is that true buyers walk this show. Every single buyer here [at Edit] is looking for newness. It’s an opportunity for stores like Harvey Nichols, Anthropologie and Saks Fifth Avenue to walk by and find a treasure amongst this sea of options — and it can be a life-changer.
One of our designers was just picked up by Harvey Nichols, and her life was changed because she was hanging at this show. We think it’s so critical that buyers still come. Newness is selling and people need newness in their stores.
WWD: What does technology’s integration into the fashion designer mean for an emerging designer?
J.S.: Social media is hugely critical. Instagram has been a game-changer for young brands to be visible while they don’t have huge advertising budgets. That said, touching it [the product] and feeling it is so important with fashion. People want to touch it. They want to see the drape and the flow. So we do both. It’s super-important to be a presence, but it’s also important to try to get buyers to come in and see you in person.
WWD: How did you decide to make this leap from working at large lines to starting a firm centered on harvesting young talent?
J.S.: I’ve been a part of big brands. I worked at Ralph Lauren. I’ve been with Saint Casimir. I’ve been with Theory and Tahari. I was one of the launching members of Sachin & Babi. I saw there’s so much young talent and there aren’t senior executives within the fashion industry who predicate their career on newness.
The reality is that I wanted to build a business that was wholly predicated on newness and a way to support young, emerging designers to get in front of the big guys and to show them exactly how a true fashion business can run. What’s been great is the buyers trust us because they know that I’m managing these businesses just like I did my big companies.
We make sure that it [items in the collection] fits. We make sure the production is stellar. We make sure we have stock to sell at events and do swaps and to make sure that sell-through continues to be high. They know that we have the young and the best and the new here. They also have a comfort level that the business will be managed in a really close and smart way.
WWD: There seems to be a stratification of production models today — what do you suggest to your brands for development and production?
J.S.: Nearly everything in the room [the collective’s Edit booth] is either designed and merchandised in New York or made in New York. New York is the source and home for fashion. We want to bring it back and we want to make sure people come here and find newness in the city that is all about fashion.