For emerging designers, showing at New York Fashion Week can be a gamble that comes with a high price tag. But thanks to Dell, teenpreneur Isabella Rose Taylor didn’t have to break the bank for a spot in this year’s lineup.
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With over 300 shows in New York alone, many young designers find the cost of putting on a runway show – which can range from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars – is better spent on more targeted marketing or product development campaigns, says Fordham Fashion Law Institute founder Susan Scafidi.
What’s more, only a handful of lucky designers will garner enough attention from the movers-and-shakers of the industry – the buyers, editors and investors – to take their businesses to the next level.
“In an ideal world, the best collections win -- whether that means the most creative or the most commercial or both. In the whirlwind of NYFW, however, other things may draw media attention,” Scafidi says. “Press doesn't ensure profits, however, unless there's desirable product behind the promotion.”
But if taken, the gamble of New York Fashion Week gives young designers a global forum, increasingly as the shows become more digitized.
“Everyone who loves fashion is watching -- either live on site or online,” says Jennifer Jackson, corporate merchandise manager at Nordstrom (JWN).
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And some young, savvy designers from across the country are finding ways to reach Lincoln Center in New York City, where the shows have been held for the past three years, without breaking the bank.
Seeking Out Corporate Sponsors
One avenue is to secure partnerships with corporate sponsors. This year’s much-talked-about teen design sensation, Isabella Rose Taylor, is one such example: the Texas designer’s debut New York show at STYLE360 is sponsored by Dell.
“Dell is very proud to play a role in bringing Isabella’s inspire spring line to the New York Fashion Week stage … as her technology partner,” Lorrie Schultz, executive director of consumer and small business at Dell, said in a statement.
As part of her participation in the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network, the company is helping Taylor’s brand through business consulting and connections to capital, among other resources.
Taylor, who has been painting since she was a toddler, began mixing her paintings into fabrics she was sewing when she was still in elementary school. Around this time, her parents reached out to Fashion Business Accelerator 360 founder Liza Deyrmenjian.
“I truly believe you can learn so much from having mentors, and I have been lucky to have met so many great people that have helped me,” Taylor says, adding that her dream is to diversify into accessories and become a global brand. “I’d love to inspire other girls and be a mentor to them.”
Deyrmenjian helped Taylor take her designs to the runways, and now, the 13-year-old Texan has a line for juniors selling online at Nordstrom and at select Nordstrom stores.
Nordstrom’s merchandise manager Jackson, who calls Taylor “quite the visionary,” says the company is “not only impressed with [Taylor’s] keen sense of creating, but also with her ability to explain how each piece works with others.” She says Taylor is aspirational for teen customers because she’s so accomplished.
And for young entrepreneurs who are looking for ways to break into the lifestyle industries, incubator-like mentorships are becoming more accessible.
‘Incubators’ for the Fashion Crowd
From MBA-like boot camps to crash courses in fashion law, a number of other options also exist for fashion entrepreneurs to secure the resources they need.
Deyrmenjian’s fashion accelerator, for example, offers online classes and boot camps featuring top industry professionals to teach people the “nuts and bolts” of launching a line, selling to buyers, setting up a blog and successful social media campaigns, among many other topics. FBA360 essentially compresses what traditional fashion schools teach, for a fraction of the cost (a four-week online course costs about $325).
The Fordham Fashion Law Institute offered an intensive summer Fashion Law Boot Camp this year as well as Fashion Law Pop-Up Clinics in years past, where designers learn about fashion business law. This year’s scholarship recipient, designer Carrie Hammer, showed her looks for businesswomen to a crowd peppered with women execs.
“This year, for the Fashion Law Institute’s 4th anniversary, we’re focusing on expanding legal education beyond lawyers,” Scafidi says. “[We’re] delighted to be able to help [designers] show as part of NYFW.”
The CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America), which was a part of Fordham’s Fashion Law Institute launch, started its Fashion Incubator as means to support business development among the next generation of designers. Ten designers have been admitted into the first two-year class.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg once said the strength of the city’s fashion world lay in its “spirit of entrepreneurship.” Bloomberg helped launch several initiatives during his tenure, like the NYC Fashion Production Fund, designed to support the long-term growth of the fashion industry in New York, where fashion jobs account for 6% of the city’s workforce.
The secret to success, Scafidi says, is to remember that “a wonderful show at [New York Fashion Week] is a means to an end, not an end in itself.”