Colombia is working to launch a fashion incubator to develop emerging designers at a time when several designers are getting attention from international and local buyers.

“We need to develop our talent and management capabilities,” said Luz Adriana Naranjo, competitiveness director at trade association Inexmoda. “We are looking for angel and venture capital investors and to enter international alliances.”

The incubator initiative is in the early stages and will be further defined later this year. In the meantime, Naranjo said the government will earmark $250,000 to help Inexmoda boost young designers’ profiles, up from $180,000 in 2013.

“The city has understood these programs are crucial for [economic] development as well as to have more attractive fashion platforms for Colombiamoda,” Naranjo said.

The incubator will also seek to forge alliances between designers and retailers in a similar vein to the New York Fashion Tech Lab.

To kick-start the program, Inexmoda will pick five designers in coming months to begin developing them through coaching and mentoring schemes before approaching investors for financing.

“They can’t just be talented; they need to understand business strategy and have the right selling channel,” Naranjo said.

As part of the push, Inexmoda this year launched and strengthened promotional platforms El Cubo by El Colombiano and Non-Stop by Caracol, which together publicized 16 designers. The group also launched the Cultura E fashion entrepreneur program while Vogue Talents Corner spread the word on 14 designers.
Naranjo said the platforms were highly integrated and will continue to serve — along with some 30 Colombiamoda fixed runways — as key promotional venues in coming years.

Inexmoda is considering teaming with Mexican trade and fashion show Intermoda, held in Guadalajara biannually, to devise a pan-Latin designer development program. Intermoda runs an expanding designer’s corner with Mexican fashion expert Anna Fusoni at its helm.

“We are a global trade show that’s very focused on LatAm but we are looking at the possibility of expanding our program through a collaboration with MBFWMx,” Naranjo said.

Arabel Alva Rosales, co-founder of Latino Fashion Week, said Colombia is doing an “exciting” job at promoting new talent.

“They are really developing designers that are creative, that remind you clothes can have a Latin flavor but be very marketable at the same time,” Alva said. “And I love the fact that they don’t just design the clothes but that they have great accessories to go with them.” Alva said she liked Argemiro Sierra and Hernan Zajar best.

“Argemiro’s stuff is spectacular,” she said, noting that the designer’s fusion of Colombian indigenous themes with contemporary urban looks makes its unisex lines highly marketable. More established Zahar also employs indigenous paintworks to conjure up innovative fabrics and prints, she noted.

Sile Ardelean, knit fabric manager at Lilly Pulitzer, had kudos for Colombiamoda.

“It’s one of the best shows I’ve been to,” Ardelean said. “It’s very well organized and I thought the designers were very talented.”

Ardelean said he particularly liked “boho-chic glam” swimwear label Malai and he hopes to launch a capsule collection with its designer, Amalia Abad, next year.

Lilly Pulitzer is also looking to shift swimwear production to Colombia, Ardelean said, though he would not reveal any prospective suppliers.

In swimwear, Colombia’s quality-price ratio beats China with better design, Ardelean said

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