One Year Later, Fashion Initiatives are Getting Off the Ground

BY and


In November of 2010, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky, announced a series of six initiatives the city intended to launch to bolster and support the city’s famed Garment District, and to squelch the notion that  outsourcing and the city’s desire to re-zone are threatening the vitality of the neighborhood.

The announcement, which, according to the NYCEDC, followed a yearlong examination of the fashion industry called FashionNYC2020, drew widespread support from fashion bloggers and others involved in the industry.

A year later, the Midtown Gazette is revisiting the six initiatives to check up on their progress. The first to launch, Fashion Campus NYC, occurred for a weekend in the summer of 2011. The NYC Fashion Draft has just recently closed its application pool and is planning to bring 25 or 30 candidates to New York this coming February for the summer 2012 program. As of November 2011, the NYCEDC put out a call for proposals to select a company or organization with which to partner for two of the remaining initiatives. The final two, according to NYCEDC spokesperson Kyle Sklerov, will follow in early 2012.

To learn more about each individual initiative, select a name below.

Fashion Campus NYC

NYC Fashion Draft

Designer as Entrepreneur

Fashion Fellows

Project Pop-Up

Fashion Fund

Fashion Campus NYC

Alexandria Lorenz has a very specific idea of what career she’d like to pursue.

“I really want to be a community manager,” she said. “Someone who runs all of the online brand imaging for a company and manages their blog, Facebook and Twitter. I want to manage how a company is received online.”

A junior majoring in Public Relations at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan, Lorenz doesn’t want to work for just any company – she wants to work as a community manager for a major fashion company. And if New York City officials have their way about it, Lorenz will come to the Garment District to pursue that goal.

fashion panel

A panel of fashion industry experts addressed students at the Fashion Campus NYC event over the summer. Photo: Jonathan Grassi.

Fashion Campus NYC was one of six initiatives announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in November of 2010, all of them intended to help rejuvenate and expand the Garment District. Many of the initiatives targeted young people, encouraging them to come to New York to pursue a career in fashion.

Lorenz attended a weekend event last summer that offered networking opportunities to almost 200 students who were already in New York City for internships. At the time, Lorenz was working as a marketing and public relations intern for fashion designer Kimberley Ovitz. Students didn’t have to be participating in fashion-related internships to apply and be accepted, but they did have to demonstrate an interest in the fashion industry.

The weekend was free of charge for participants — something that was attractive to Lorenz.

“It was free. I loved that,” she said. “Great free food, a lot of great free food. The catering was exquisite.”

Lorenz, who hopes to go into public relations, said much of the weekend was focused more on the merchandising, retail and designer aspects of the fashion industry. Although she enjoyed a break-out panel with Tom Handley, a professor of public relations at Parsons the New School of Design, she said she wished more of the available professionals had been involved with other aspects of the industry.

“I knew that going into it,” she said. “But I knew I would still learn something. It didn’t deter me from going. I know there are a lot of fashion PR firms and getting some representatives would be beneficial. Not just for design and merchandising. There were a lot of buyers, which was great to hear their opinion, but I think some marketing or PR professionals would have made me a little bit more interested.”

One of the big draws for the weekend was hearing from designer Derek Lam, who spoke on a panel about his experience of starting his own fashion company from the ground up, said Caletha Crawford, the Parsons the New School of Design program director for Fashion Campus NYC.

“I think the main thing with a program like this is raising awareness for students who are in school and really figuring out what they want to do with their careers,” said Crawford. “That’s why we had specific breakout sessions that were led by career services or industry people and talking about specific career paths to focus on and give them an idea of day to day qualifications for the job.”

Crawford said Parsons and the NYCEDC are hoping to make Fashion Campus NYC into an annual event. Plans are already underway for the 2012 program.

Lorenz said she would love to attend the event again.

“I would have liked it to be longer,” she said. “There were so many people there, it was hard to meet people and really get to know them without thinking you had to talk to others while they were there. Something to make it longer would definitely be better.”

But Crawford said it’s unlikely the event will expand to go on for longer than just a weekend.

“I definitely see the event expanding,” she said. “I don’t know if we’d push it beyond a weekend. I think there was still time for us to do more in a weekend setting.”

City officials involved in the initiatives did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

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NYC Fashion Draft

Following the example of the summer Fashion Campus NYC event, the New York City Economic Development Corporation is in the midst of preparing for initiative number two: the NYC Fashion Draft.

The draft recruits recent college graduates to interview for jobs with major fashion firms in New York City. Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Ralph Lauren and the Armani Exchange are among some of the participating companies with job offers that tend to focus on retail and wholesale-related positions: Merchandiser, product developer, marketing manager, account executive, retail buyer and store planner.

Caletha Crawford, the Parsons program director of the draft — who also partnered with the NYCEDC for the Fashion Campus event — said the draft is seeking the most exclusive talent from universities around the world.

“We’re looking for entry-level jobs,” Crawford said, explaining why the draft is targeted exclusively at recent college graduates. “We’re definitely aware there’s talent at all experience levels, but this is for entry-levels specifically.

“The idea is to help make sure there is a pipeline of talent in the company, and [recruits] get their start and go on to mature if not at the same company, than some other company in the city,” she said.

The application deadline was on November 14. The next step will be to select a group of finalists by mid-December. Ultimately, 20 to 30 applicants will be selected and flown to New York City for a series of interviews and networking events in February of 2012.

“We received just under 400 applications,” Crawford said. “In terms of general interest, we’ve gotten a lot of e-mails and people asking a lot of questions about the application process. The students are very excited about it.”

The NYCEDC has budgeted $125,000 for the program to cover airplane fees and the weekend expenses for the participants.

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Designer as Entrepreneur

The city has launched the initiatives consecutively rather than all at once, and the next in line is the Designer as Entrepreneur program. Described as an “entrepreneurial bootcamp,” the program will serve as a classroom-style mini-Master’s program, to equip fashion designers with business and entrepreneurial skills.

Thread spools at a belt factory in the Garment District. Photo: Anna Irrera.

“The Designer as Entrepreneur program will educate designers on the day-to-day aspects of running a fashion business, such as merchandising a line, promotion, sourcing, and other relevant topics,” read a post on the NYCEDC’s blog. “It will enrich participating designers’ understanding of all the elements required to run a fashion label and will provide critical insight on how to accelerate the growth of their businesses.”

The NYCEDC is seeking businesses with which to partner to help launch each program. Parsons was selected to partner for the first two initiatives, Fashion Campus NYC and the NYC Fashion Draft. A call was put out in May of 2011 encouraging businesses interested in partnering for the Designer as Entrepreneur program to apply. The deadline for those proposals was June 30, 2011.

Kyle Skelrov, a spokesperson for the NYCEDC, said the next step will be to select the business with which to partner. From there, the specifics of the program and its budget will be laid out.

“Those initiatives will be launched over the course of the next few months,” he said.

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Fashion Fellows

Fashion Fellows aims to develop the next generation of top-level executive fashion management talent.

“While there a number of recognition programs for high-potential emerging fashion designers, there are limited programs honoring high-potential emerging fasion management talent,” read a post on the NYCEDC’s blog.

Fashion Fellows will recognize at least 20 rising stars in fashion management providing them with educational, mentoring, and networking opportunities to accelerate their careers.

“The overall goal is to prepare particpants to take on the highest-level leadership roles, with the potential to become the next generation of CEOs, COOs and other top-tier executives at companies across the fashion industry value chain, particularly at designers/brands, wholesalers, and retailers,” added the NYCEDC’s post.

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Project Pop-Up and Fashion Fund 

The same process will apply for the remaining two initiatives: NYC Fashion Production Co-op Bank and Project Pop-up.

“The RFPs for the remaining initiatives will be published by the end of the year or at the beginning of next year,” said Sklerov.

Since specifics for each project are defined with selected partners, no new details are available. According to the initial plan revealed on January 11, 2010, NYC Fashion Production Co-op Bank will consist in a fund established by the City to help emerging designers access capital for their initial production cycle. As for Project Pop-up, aimed at maintaining New York City’s position as a retail leader, it will be an annual competition to promote new and creative retail concepts.

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