FIT Design Entrepreneurs’ Class of 2019 gathered Thursday night at the DKNY showroom at 240 West 40th Street in Manhattan to launch the program, as well as network.
Some 24 up-and-coming designers were selected by fashion and business experts to participate in the FIT DE, where they will embark on a six-month “boot camp” to boost their existing businesses with the help of mentors, consultants and workshops. Throughout the program, FIT provides designers access to classes, resources, events and industry professionals who serve as mentors, financial consultants, and pitch-workshop leaders, and they work on a business plan. With significant support from the fashion industry, most notably G-III Apparel Group, the founding sponsor, two finalists will be selected this spring to receive top prizes of $100,000 (for the most outstanding business plan) and $50,000 (second-place company) to help grow their businesses.
“It’s a great opportunity for young people, and a great investment on the parts of successful people in the business,” said Joyce Brown, president of FIT. “Obviously they’re all very creative, but it helps them understand the business side.” She said that FIT DE alumni come back and tell them that they learned things that they didn’t even know that they didn’t know. She said the prize money will make a difference in the winners’ lives.
“Morris Goldfarb [chairman and chief executive officer of G-III] has been an amazing partner,” she added. “He believes in the creative ability of young people and puts his money where his mouth is.”
Goldfarb told the gathering, “Most of you are on the creative side and your weakness, I would imagine, is the financial side — how to get an angel investor, how to present from an economic point of view to get people…to invest in your companies. You have a great opportunity, and it’s a talent that needs to be further pushed so you guys do have a chance. Talent and creative doesn’t always get you there….Unfortunately, there are only going to be two winners, and hopefully the industry wins with all of you.”
Launched in 2012, FIT DE serves as a mini-MBA program and has helped 79 companies, including Chromat, Eckhaus Latta, David Hart, Haus Alkire and Abasi Rosborough.
Based on areas of expertise, leading fashion industry professionals are paired with the designers as mentors throughout the FIT DE program.
“FIT Design Entrepreneurs already has a long and distinguished track record of helping designers surmount hurdles and get to the next level of in their businesses,” said Jeannette Nostra, FIT DE’s executive-in-residence and senior adviser, G-III. “We’re looking to make sure talent on the brink of success can get the necessary consulting and financial support to help them realize their goals.”
This year’s selection committee included Andy Hilfiger, creative director and namesake of Andrew Charles; Marie Joh, director of buying and merchandising at Of a Kind, and Gary Wassner, ceo of Hilldun Corp.
Last year, Ariana Boussard-Reiffel, a sculptural jewelry designer, shared the $150,000 prize money with Maggie Bacon, founder of Thistle & Spire, a lingerie firm, in a tie.
“It was a phenomenal and exceptional experience for me. I come from an art sculptural background and approaching design from a business perspective was new to me,” said Boussard-Reiffel. She said more than the prize money, she gained access to incredible minds. “To think about your business in a different way with a sense toward the future, and with the potential of what you can become,” she said of the prize.
Bacon added that it was an “amazing opportunity” for a fledgling entrepreneur to get to know ceo’s and learn from industry experts.
Boussard-Reiffel said she used the $75,000 to reinvest in building inventory for the holiday season, which demanded $200,000 in inventory. Bacon said she created a strong budget for fourth quarter marketing and bought inventory to support that marketing.
The 2019 participating designers are:
- Autumn Adeigbo
- Marisol Arteaga, Arteaga
- Anita Arzé, Arzé Atelier
- Kathy Bach, Kaarem
- Danielle Fichera
- Nora Gardnerr, Nora Gardner New York
- Anitra Michelle, Anitra Michelle/Homme
- Audra Noyes, Audra
- Elena Rudenko
- Stefan Ayon, Stay Made
- Dashiel Brahmann
- Lisa Reali, Reali New York
- Chorthip Langese, Chorthip
- Fiona Morrison, Wolf Circus
- Soull Ogun, L’enchanteur
- Luz Ortiz
- Stephanie Schwallie, Castlecliff
- Sage Loman, Sage Aubrey
- Hope Macdonald, Hope by Hope Macdonald
- Jaquelyn Wang, Apede Mod
- Parisa Wang
- Eree Kim, Hopp
- Soni Borcar, Mei L’ange
- Corey Woods, Yeroc by Corey Woods