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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Newport International Runway Group Latest Trends: A Start-Up Incubator With a Fashion Focus

PARIS — The jewelry designer Sara Beltrán owes part of her success to a Jaipur rickshaw taxi driver she met when on a business trip. From helping her find her house, to production and business contacts, he made the introductions. But a local connection can take you only so far. The Council of Fashion Designers of America is helping Ms. Beltrán develop her jet-set beach-vibe brand Dezso into a profitable global enterprise with its in-house incubator program.

The C.F.D.A., known for its charity fund-raising campaigns — particularly for HIV/AIDS research — and scholarships, introduced the incubator for emerging designers in 2009 as part of the initiatives of the mayor of New York at the time, Michael R. Bloomberg, to develop and retain entrepreneurs there.

The original proposal was to partner with the Fashion Institute of Technology, but Lisa Smilor, the council’s executive director, said she did not want to stake her organization’s reputation on students fresh out of school.

Instead, the C.F.D.A. set admission guidelines strictly to American designers who have established businesses at least two years old, and who have received notable press and orders from top-tier retailers. For its current class, the third generation, the council accepted 10 brands out of 35 applicants.

After starting their business with $8,000 of personal funds and growing 30 percent annually over five years, Farah Malik and Dana Arbib, the designers of the jewelry brand A Peace Treaty, hit a wall. They were looking for an opportunity. The designers, who produce in 10 countries, had organized communities of older artisans to train younger generations in order to revitalize dying craftsmanship techniques, such as camel bone carving in Rajasthan. Ms. Malik said the kind of mentoring they had fostered was missing for their own business.

Before the incubator, the C.F.D.A. already had a designer development program in partnership with Vogue magazine, which has been responsible for launching such designers as Rodarte, Proenza Schouler and Alexander Wang. However the organization’s proprietary incubator is more of a slow cooker for young brands rather than the fast-paced cutthroat competition of the C.F.D.A./Vogue Fashion Fund, which is filmed as a Project Runway-like reality show.

Ms. Smilor describes the incubator program as less marketing for the organization and more “nuts and bolts” of supporting emerging designers. “The concept was to create a space where we can help nurture designers,” she said.

After applying to the C.F.D.A./Vogue Fashion Fund and making it through the first round, the designers of A Peace Treaty ultimately decided it was not right for the brand. Ms. Malik said they decided to focus on a “sure shot that would be more lucrative.” A friend and incubator designer Jonathan Simkhai suggested they apply to the two-year program.

The C.F.D.A. underwrites half the cost of a studio in a collective workspace in the heart of New York’s garment district, which Ms. Malik likens to being on a school campus. Before moving into their studio at the incubator, she said, the designers were “isolated” in their Midtown Manhattan office.

 “The excitement and creativity buzzes with us all there,” Ms. Malik said. “It’s nice to know we’re all struggling with the same business issues. That kind of sharing is really reassuring. We crack a lot of codes together.”

Ms. Smilor said that for 10 brands competing for the same investment dollars and editorial attention, the incubator is more of a community than a competition for the fellows. “They really are all for one and one for all,” she said.

In the first part of the two-year program, designers selected for the incubator get an intensive eight-month business finance and marketing education as part of the C.F.D.A.'s partnership with Stern School of Business at New York University. Because the designers have established businesses, their brands also act as a case study project for the M.B.A. students, who work with the designers to develop business plans that include e-commerce and finance strategies.

Having the tough love of aspiring business sharks pick apart and critique her business was sometimes uncomfortable for Ms. Malik. “We’ve been very proud about building our business ourselves from the ground up,” she said. “Sometimes it felt too big and I had to negotiate my feelings around the program. But it was the best treatment we could have gotten.”

Beyond the textbook education of running a business, Ms. Beltrán said the value of the incubator for her was also the introduction of work discipline. “I was dying to have routine,” she said in Paris during the recent fashion season. “I needed to have a more formal business structure.”

Integrating the M.B.A. students and designers has a marked effect on the designers’ language when they talk about their lines now. Ms. Malik refers to her brand’s “DNA” when discussing A Peace Treaty’s identity, which she describes as “global ethnic modern for the contemporary girl.” Ms. Beltrán also uses the same term when talking about Dezso’s look.

Before joining the incubator, Ms. Beltrán knew her company from every angle, but talking about it in a business pitch was stressful for her. That new business language also prepares the designers to present themselves and their brands to potential investors and executives, such as in a recent presentation to Pierre-Yves Roussel, chief executive of LVMH Fashion Group.

Throughout their residency, industry executives are assigned to incubator fellows as mentors to help them identify personal challenges and guide them in developing their businesses.

Shira Sue Carmi, a fashion business consultant, is acting as a mentor and helping Ms. Beltrán streamline Dezso and transition the brand from a casual summer line, which in early designs used materials like leather and sharks’ teeth cast in rose gold, to the high-end luxury market. Mexican bracelets from her first collection retail starting at about $100, and more recent pieces with semi-precious stones retail for up to $95,000.

The C.F.D.A. not only wants to elevate designers’ business operations while in the incubator, but also foster their creativity to continue developing their lines. Through partnerships, designers are granted allowances for travel and funding for business projects. Ms. Beltrán, for example, will shoot a video lookbook in Puerto Rico. A Peace Treaty will travel to Colombia for inspiration for their coming collections.

As the C.F.D.A. prepares to start taking applications in spring for the next generation, Ms. Smilor said it was exploring the possibility of creating a showroom for the designers.

The business development and skills the designers receive in the incubator are fueling more than just their existing brands.

“The idea is that when I leave the incubator everything is under control so that I can take the next step,” Ms. Beltrán said. “But I cannot do just jewelry. My dream is to design a hotel.”

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Newport International Runway Group Latest Trends: Green Is the New Black

With the rise of fast fashion stores like Forever 21 and H&M, clothes and accessories are easier – and cheaper – to come by than ever. And while a pair of $10 jeans and an $8 necklace are hard to pass up, there’s also a dark side to production on such a mass scale – namely, making the fashion industry the third most polluting industry on earth after oil and agriculture.

That’s the likes of why Stella McCartney, G-Star RAW, Loomstate, Bionic Yarn and the manufacturer Saitex have joined forces with the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute to revolutionize the fashion industry through Fashion Positive, a new initiative aimed at accelerating innovation in high-quality materials, products and processes to improve how clothes are made across the industry.

The program helps fashion businesses in five categories of sustainability: material health, material reuse, renewable energy, water stewardship and social fairness.

At the initiative’s star-studded Second Annual Innovation Celebration Friday night, Lewis Perkins, senior vice president of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, said the program is helping industry leaders create the future of fashion.

“It’s really retooling what we’ve been doing for 150 years, since the industrial revolution” Perkins said. “Now we realize that energy is not cheap and water is not indefinite, and we really have to look at different systems.”

The initiative’s first goal is to create Fashion Positive’s Materials Library of ethical materials and suppliers that other companies can then use to create their own products. Perkins defined this ground-up approach as a “continuous improvement roadmap” for sustainability, which also happens to make money for those involved.

“There’s a big shift that’s occurring, the whole industry has awakened to the fact that it’s wasteful, there’s toxicity, low price points are driving human rights issues, wage issues,” Perkins said. “We have to do something, and the whole industry knows it.”

Investors like Schmidt Philanthropies and the DOEN Foundation are funding the initial challenges associated with finding sustainable souring materials, modernizing manufacturing equipment and ensuring worker safety and healthy work conditions. And, naturally, creating products that are appealing — and sellable – to consumers.

While the issues won’t be solved overnight, the program is hoping to have partnering brands and designers reach the Cradle to Cradle Certified GOLD-level standard by 2016. And what’s more fashionable than that?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Style files: What Makes Tokyo Collection Special by Newport International Runway Group Latest Trends

Events called "fashion week" are held in most of the world's major cities twice a year. Typically, 30 to 100 designer brands - mainly from the host country - spend three to five days holding runway or other fashion shows to unveil the collections and fashion accessories they plan to introduce to the market half a year later.

As the clothes are worn by professional models and presented under special lighting with music, the shows are believed to be the best way to present designers' new looks.

Not all brand names can participate in such events, however. The ones that can are usually those enjoying profits from fairly large operations, since such shows naturally come with a high price tag. Most brands introduce their new styles in an exhibition format, in which clothes are simply hung up for display.

The most famous fashion week is held in Paris, the capital of fashion. The second most important one, in terms of scale and number of participating brands, is in Milan. This is then followed by the fashion week in New York and the one in London. Tokyo Fashion Week rounds out what are called the five largest fashion weeks by people in the Japanese fashion industry.

However, Tokyo Fashion Week, which ended its showing of 2015 spring/summer collections last month, hardly matches up to the other four because it lacks famous brands. Such world-famous Japanese names as Issey Miyake, Comme des Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto and Sacai do not introduce their new collections in Tokyo but in Paris. Anrealage, which made a name for itself at the Tokyo Fashion Week in recent years, also has moved its collection venue to Paris.

Needless to say, few journalists and buyers come to Tokyo from abroad to see the Tokyo collection. However, many of those who have walked the streets of Tokyo say the city is home to some of the world's most outstanding fashion sensitivity. I find the words are not entirely flattering, though. Simply put, the importance of the fashion week of a city does not necessarily reflect the degree of fashion sensitivity found in its streets.

Let me introduce two collections I thought were very special during the latest Tokyo Fashion Week. They were also very typical of the Tokyo collection.

Lad Musician, designed by Yuichi Kuroda, organised its 40th show during the week.

Lad Musician has always presented shows in a unique manner by, for example, accompanying them with so-called shoegazer rock music typified by guitar effects and creative guitar noises, as well as theatrical smoke.

The latest show had fantastic features, too, thanks to a presentation using laser beams, LEDs and other effects.

The show, held under the theme of the rock band Spacemen 3, actually seemed to be an homage to the shoegazing band that broke up in 1991. Sonic Boom, a former Spacemen 3 member, gave a live performance during the show.

Kuroda designs minimal and simple styles, but the show itself was great entertainment with its music and visual presentation. It can be regarded as a kind of otaku world, but it was as beautiful as fireworks in the summer night sky, if you could forget it was part of the fashion business.

The other impressive show was that produced by Nozomi Ishiguro Haute Couture. It organised the evening fashion festival Kawaii Hate Night at Club Diana in Tokyo's Hibiya district on Oct. 27, which included a runway show.

To attract general audiences, a photo session took place in collaboration with a street snap magazine. A special version of a T-shirt jointly made with the magazine was sold, and a live concert was held.

The main event, of course, was the 2015 spring/summer collection of Nozomi Ishiguro Haute Couture held in cooperation with rock band Flying Dutchman Effect.

Ishiguro, who worked at Comme des Garcons' planning department, advocates designs with a message. According to Ishiguro, Kawaii Hate Night reflects a "hatred for Japanese girls and women who keep using the word kawaii." The remarks sound very Ishiguro, a designer known for a spirit of rebelliousness.

Ishiguro believes it does not mean anything if a designer just makes clothes and then lets models work the runway. He thinks actions and statements must accompany clothes.

His belief might have made the latest festival happen by symbiotically combining the euphoria of a rock festival with a fashion show.

Both Lad Musician and Nozomi Ishiguro are truly unique. Tokyo must be the only city where fashion designers like Kuroda and Ishiguro can proudly show such a personal collection.

Newport International Group Runway

When we talk about fashion, appearance is crucial for obvious reason in the fashion industry. With that in mind, Newport makes and styles a virtual fashion haven with an excellent source of design inspiration.

You don’t have to join the Newport International Group Runway to enjoy it. Casual readers can just browse and search to it. You will discover and share what you find in the Newport by exploring tags, individual people’s spots, popular or recent bookmarks, and popular sites in the Newport. Or, you can simply check out, which covers what trends our editors are seeing emerge in the runway.