The Black Design Collective has opened an incubator for members at The New Mart in downtown L.A.
“We always wanted to have an incubator to do workshops, have community meetings and educate,” said BDC cofounder and Los Angeles designer Kevan Hall, of the Black Design Collective Creative Center now open within the 30,000-square-foot Fashion Tech Works space. “It’s like a WeWork,” he added of the facility, which has a sewing room, a cutting room, digital printing machines, a photo studio, a 25,000-square-foot event space and other resources for designers to develop collections.
“When I was coming up, it was my dining room table, so this is an incredible opportunity for young designers and seasoned designers to use this space particularly since we’ve just come through the pandemic, and a lot of folks have given up showrooms and workrooms,” said Hall. “This gives them the opportunity to come in and do whatever they dream, from concept through launching. And this building is full of [sales] reps, so you can imagine a designer coming here to develop a collection, striking up a relationship, and go into a showroom. There’s a facility that’s an exhibit space. We have a photo studio to create content, a podcast room. Everything is here.”
The BDC is leasing the space from the digital design center and showroom Fashion Tech Works, which has hosted fashion shows for Art Hearts Fashion Week and Cross Colours, among others.
“In my day, to get anything similar to this, you had to do an internship…” said BDC cofounder and Cross Colours cofounder TJ Walker.
The BDC was launched in 2018 by Hall, Walker, costume designer Ruth E. Carter and designer Angela Dean to address issues surrounding inequality in the fashion industry. The organization’s mission is to provide Black designers with resources, mentorship, an e-commerce platform and business opportunities. The organization is supported by AT&T and Lexus, among others, and counts the CFDA as a partner.
“One of the highs is during the pandemic we were able to help our membership with a series of meetings and workshops to coach them in keeping their businesses afloat,” Hall said, reflecting on the group’s accomplishments and noting that they helped designers access nearly $2 million in funding.
“We put our effort on the creative center last year in terms of our funding and the education and training part,” said Walker, explaining that he’s in the process of acquiring certification to create a BDC vocational school. “We want to do it so we can build the workforce of the industry, which is dwindling. I also want to get the community more involved in the center, and use it as a template for others to mirror. We just started another chapter of the BDC in Cincinnati.”
The Black Design Collective also has chapter interest in Detroit and San Francisco, he said.