Backstage at Willy Chavarria Men's Spring 2019

The Council of Fashion Designers of America is expanding its association with the Project trade show, starting in August in Las Vegas.

The CFDA x Project initiative will bring five men’s wear designers to the show at the Las Vegas Convention Center within a new section called N:ow Lab, a concept space that will rotate each season. Project is moving from its longtime home at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to join the women’s and footwear shows at the convention center from Aug. 12 through Aug. 14.

The designers participating in the first edition are Kenneth Nicholson, Lukhanyo Mdingi, NIHL, Sanchez-Kane and Willy Chavarria.

Mark Beckham, chief marketing officer of CFDA, said this initiative is intended to serve as a business platform, or “matchmaking,” for these designers to connect them with potential retail customers. It will not feature runway shows, but will be a “more commercial” push that will include networking events between the brands, retailers, media and influencers attending the show.

The designers were chosen to ensure they have the wherewithal to produce and deliver any orders they might receive from retailers at the show, he said.

“As the men’s wear industry grows, our partnership with Project further reinforces our mission to strengthen the influence and success of American fashion designers in the global economy,” said Steven Kolb, president and chief executive officer of the CFDA. “By bringing CFDA emerging brands to Project in a specially curated N:ow Lab, we hope it will garner retailer relationships, attention and awareness that is vital to their success and business growth.”

Lizette Chin, president of men’s fashion for Informa, which owns Project, said: “We wanted our first N:ow Lab to be a curated area that highlights emerging men’s wear talent and whose creative forces push the traditional boundaries in fashion. The CFDA played a vital role in working with us to select the brands and designers, many of whom are first-time exhibitors with us.”

She said that the Tents, Project’s section for elevated designer brands, will continue and is separate from N:ow Lab.

Both Chin and Beckham said they’re hopeful this designer project will continue beyond this season, and may potentially be expanded as well. “We would love to bring this to New York,” Chin said. “We plan to continue working with the CFDA to support American designers and help foster new talent.”

CFDA is struggling to find the right format to support and showcase its men’s designers. New York Fashion Week: Men’s, which ended its three-day run on Wednesday, had paltry participation due to the organization’s decision to move the shows up from July to June to coincide with women’s resort, dates that were too early for many American men’s brands. In addition, sponsorship for the New York men’s shows dried up, meaning any designer who chose to participate received no financial support.

The idea of replicating the success of Pitti Uomo, the successful men’s trade in Florence, where buzzy runway shows are part of the mix, is one of the ideas being considered for the U.S. market.

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