Daniel Vosovic
Daniel Vosovic

I spotted a familiar face at the recent CFDA {Fashion Incubator} showcase, held March 18 at the W hotel in Hollywood: Daniel Vosovic.

“Familiar” is not exactly an accurate term. He and I had never met before the CFDA event. But the New York–based designer was a finalist in the second season of “Project Runway,” back in 2005. That was the season in which half of the cast was from Los Angeles, including Nick Verreos, Andrae Gonzalo, Santino Rice, Kristen Ehrig, Raymundo Baltazar, Daniel Franco, John Wade and Guadalupe Vidal.

Flash forward to 2014 and Vosovic was one of 10 designers and brands showcasing their lines at the last stop on a national tour as they complete the two-year CFDA {Fashion Incubator} program. Joining Vosovic on tour were Ari Dein, Burkman Bros, Emanuela Duca, Isaora, Jonathan Simkhai, Number:Lab, Reece Hudson, Timo Weiland and Whit.

The designers praised the program, which provides assistance on a number of levels. Reese Solomon, the designer for handbag brand Reece Hudson received help with brand development from an executive at Kate Spade.

“The mentorship we get has been fantastic,” Doug Burkman, who started menswear line Burkman Bros with his brother Ben, after they both worked at Gap Inc. “Whatever you wish for, they’ll attempt to make it happen.”

Through the {Fashion Incubator} program, lingerie designer Ari Dein worked on a collaboration with Carolina Herrera and jewelry designer Emanuela Duca created a collection with Linda Evangelista.

In creating his latest line, Vosovic envisioned “Frida Kahlo on a trip to Istanbul” and incorporated Turkish tile motifs into his colorful prints. The designer recently decided to forgo wholesale and concentrate his efforts on selling though his own e-commerce website. “To me, it’s a focus of resources,” he said. “I’d rather be nimble and speak directly to my woman.”

He was not alone in this strategy. Menswear collection Isaora has sold in retailers such as Barneys New York, Ron Herman and Fred Segal, but founders Marc Daniels and Ricky Hendry are now taking their line directly to consumers. “The consumer benefits from greatly reduced prices and we can control the message,” Daniels said. Hendry noted the strategy allows the company to continue to work with “great factories in Italy” and to tailor its offerings directly to consumers. So when a customer logs on to the site on a hot day in Los Angeles, he won’t see cold weather gear.

The Council of Fashion Designers of America launched the {Fashion Incubator} program in 2010 with the help of the New York City Economic Development Corp., which provided a $200,000 grant to start the program. The NYEDC started sponsoring business incubators in 2009 “to foster the development of entrepreneurs across all industry sectors, and to encourage small businesses to locate and grow in New York City.”

There are two parts to the CFDA {Fashion Incubator} program, the first part is a nine-month “MBA program” developed by the CFDA and New York University’s Stern School of Business. In the second part, the designers move their business into the CFDA {Fashion Incubator} studio. During the two-year-program, designers get assistance from CFDA member on “all aspects of business development—including costing and production, branding and marketing, finance and legal, eCommerce development and retail strategy.” Described as a customized business mentorship, the program gives designers access to workshops, seminars, networking and travel opportunities—“all with the objective of helping them grow their business.”

In 2012, W Hotels signed on as a partner in the program, allowing the designers to take an all-expenses-paid inspiration trip to one of the hotel chain’s 42 locations around the world. On her inspiration trip to Qatar, jewelry designer Duca brought back sand, which she incorporated into her sculptural pieces

To be considered for the program, a designer much have “demonstrable talent,” meaning they have landed editorial coverage and retail orders. They must be American or have their business based here and they must have been in business for at least two years and be able to move to the CFDA {Fashion Incubator} space.

The next group of designers has already been selected and include A Peace Treaty, Dezso, Isa Tapia, Kaelen, Kara, Katie Ermilio, Lucia Castro, Nomia, Nonoo and Orley.


Published at Apparel News on March 21, 2014