ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – The St. Louis Fashion Incubator announces the winners of its inaugural class of emerging designers. Susan Sherman, Board Chairman of the St. Louis Fashion Fund that created the incubator project says they were looking for designers who had existing business plans and were already selling their product.
“Someone who has been around for 2 to 5 years, business people who takes fashion seriously as a business who want to grow. That’s our mission to help accelerate their business very quickly and grow their brand in two years.”
A panel of industry judges including the head of New York Fashion Week poured over the 43 applications Wednesday before deciding on the six designers who will move to St. Louis for a two year residency into a loft building on Washington Avenue. They’ll be given financial support, free work and design space and be mentored by industry and business leaders.
43 applications came from 11 states. Two winners are from Dallas. The rest are from New York, Delaware, Chicago and one, Emily Koplar, is from St. Louis.
“They love St Louis, they want to be members of the community. They want to education the community over the two years. And our hope is that one or two of them decide to stay here and build a business here.”
Sherman met with each of the applicants in their home cities and one sold her house even before the competition was complete and prepared to move to St. Louis to be part of the Fashion Fund movement. Sherman says, “That designerse and her husband sold their home and told us they were coming here even if they didn’t win.” She did win.
The effort to create the St. Louis Fashion Fund and then incubator project has been a two year process. Sherman gets emotional when she talks about how quickly it has succeeded and how many have stepped up and responded to this unknown program. A feasibility study was conducted by the local business community and donations came from local and state agencies. She says once different agencies put up money, it was a domino effect. “We went on a very fast tract and many said we should take it slowly and only focus on local designers. And we will offer so much to the community at large.” Sherman calls this big, great news for St. Louis that puts us on an international and national stage as far as fashion.
Saint Louis Fashion Fund is a non-profit organization which supports emerging designers and promotes fashion education and outreach. The 43-member board is currently raising $2 million in funds to support the build out of the space and three years of operating expenses. The state of Missouri’s Department of Economic Development recently awarded the Saint Louis Fashion Fund $250,000 in tax credits that will be be used to leverage half a million in contributions. http://www.saintlouisfashionfund.org.
The six chosen designers and their companies are:
· Donald Charles Smith Brame II (Smith II), Dallas, TX
· Agnes Hamerlik (Hamerlik), Chicago, IL
· Emily Koplar (Wai Ming), St. Louis, MO
· Allison Mitchell (Allison Mitchell), Dallas, TX
· Audra Noyes (AUDRA), New York, NY and Wilmington, DE
· Reuben Reuel Riddick (Demestik by Reuben Reuel), Brooklyn, NY
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