For its second year, Saks Fifth Avenue’s emerging designer accelerator program The New Wave has recruited eight new brands including Claude Kameni, Keeyahri, Ludovic de Saint Sernin, Nalebe, Sunni Sunni, Undra Celeste, Who Decides War, and Zeynap Arcay.
The purpose of the program is to develop and support high-potential independent brands to accelerate their growth at Saks, and ultimately across the fashion industry. All are new to Saks.
This year the participating designers were sourced from all categories including men’s and “genderful” (gender-inclusive) brands which are new to the program. Participants were identified by the Saks leadership team as brands that have significant growth potential but require additional support to scale their businesses.
Another goal of the program is to emphasize Black, Indigenous and people of color voices, with Saks ensuring that each year at least half of the participating brands are owned by firms founded by this cohort. This year, six of the eight participating designers are Black, Indigenous or people of color.
“Saks is committed to amplifying emerging brands and it is incredibly important to us that we use our platform to elevate independent designer businesses and BIPOC voices,” said Anna Irving, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of women’s designer ready-to-wear at Saks. “This program is a crucial part of our goal to increase representation in our merchandise assortment and to provide emerging designers with the resources to succeed at Saks and beyond. At the same time, the program supports our mission to offer unique and inspiring fashion to our customers.”
The designers will be housed on saks.com and throughout select Saks Fifth Avenue stores in their respective categories and departments. Some have started with spring ’22 collections, and others, with pre-fall 2022 collections.
Claude Kameni, Nalebe, Sunni Sunni, Undra Celeste and Who Decides War are currently available, and Keeyahri, Ludovic de Saint Sernin and Zeynap Arcay are launching in July and August. In September, participating brands will be featured together in a shoppable editorial article on The Edit, the Saks editorial hub for fashion news and style inspiration.
The first iteration of The New Wave launched in June 2021 as part of Saks’ DEI roadmap outlining goals to advance its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, including a commitment to increase total sales of Black-owned, designed or led brands by nearly $100 million by 2023.
All of last year’s designers became part of the permanent Saks assortment.
Similar to last year, the program will offer an on-boarding bootcamp, cross-functional advisory sessions with leaders from across the Saks business, roundtable sessions with industry experts and designers and access to workshops to support brands with small business knowhow. Each designer will also be eligible to receive a $10,000 grant to support their business operations and growth, as well as dedicated marketing support from Saks.
For the second year, Mastercard serves as the presenting sponsor of The New Wave. It provides designers with Digital Doors Toolkits, including exclusive tools and resources to help small businesses digitally transform, as well as one-on-one mentorship. This partnership builds on Mastercard’s sustained commitment to build a more inclusive digital economy and to help close the racial wealth and opportunity gap for Black communities.
This year United Airlines will participate in The New Wave program and brands will have the opportunity to design the new Saks-branded day blanket that will appear on board United flights in Polaris and business class. Leadership from Saks and United will serve as judges and select the winner of the competition.
Other program partners that will provide mentorship opportunities and entrepreneurial workshops throughout the year include the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Harlem’s Fashion Row, Launch Collective, NuOrder and Skypad.
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