For the past five years, the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Design Entrepreneurs has been helping up-and-coming fashion designers create the businesses of their dreams, from teaching them strategy, branding and financials and setting them up with industry mentors to giving them the chance to win $50,000 to $100,000 for their young companies.
Now, FIT’s “mini MBA” program is going one step further with the official launch of the Design Entrepreneurs Collaborative, a 5,400-square-foot workspace in the center of New York City’s Garment District. The space gives alums of both FIT and the Design Entrepreneurs program the chance to operate out of an affordable space, meet with potential buyers and retailers and hold mini-marts during fashion market weeks.
The Collaborative is split into eight showrooms that rent for $900 each, a larger one that costs $1,200 and space for presentations, sample sales, photo shoots and more. The showrooms carry a one-year lease with a second-year option.
“I think the best part about this is that these designers have a chance to be with other designers,” Christine Helm, coordinator of Enterprise Studies and Digital Design at FIT, told Metro at the official opening. “It’s so difficult to be an entrepreneur of any kind – you’re off on your own and isolated. Here, they’re not competing with each other, and they love being together, yet they have their separate reserved space.”
Being with other designers inspires Kandice Pelletier, whose namesake luxury swimwear company, which counts five consecutive Miss Americas among its clientele, has been operating out of the Design Entrepreneurs Collaborative since March.
“There’s no competition – we’ve been able to share resources, stylists and help each other,” the former Miss New York and Radio City Rockette said.
But she’s also seen firsthand the benefits on the business side, too.
“I’ve been able to double my business and start a brand-new activewear line we’re really excited about,” said Pelletier, an alum of Design Entrepreneurs. “The growth and having a place for people to come just gives the validity to the brand.”
For Amanda Campbell, another alum, her space showcases her company, Slight Jewelry, whose pieces are often inspired by science fiction, and her newly launched engagement ring line, Momo.
“This space has been amazing, but Design Entrepreneurs is like a mini fashion MBA, and that really helped me dissect my business and focus on what’s working and what’s not working,” she said.
For Design Entrepreneurs Collaborative’s “resident shoemaker" Noah Waxman, the space “represents the next piece of building a fashion brand.”
Applications are currently being accepted for the next Design Entrepreneurs program, which runs from January to June. For more info, visit fitnyc.edu/designentrepreneurs.