By Jaime Lin Weinstein
The second class of the CFDA’s Fashion Incubator program left its communal space on West 38th street in New York City and came to Atlanta last week, the first stop on an around-the-world type tour to meet retailers, customers and media in local markets thanks to a new partnership with W Hotels. One of the four program participants to come to Atlanta was Italian jewelry designer Emanuela Duca, a woman who is familiar with travelling in order to further her career – fifteen years ago she decided to take a big risk and relocated from her hometown of Rome to New York City in order to place herself in a market more welcoming to new, contemporary designers.
Her Italian heritage, however, remains a driving force in her work. The pieces of her current collection take inspiration from the textured surfaces and raw, primitive aesthetic of the ancient ruins in her native land. Constructed of sterling silver and treated through processes like oxidation to produce a black finishing, Duca has mastered her techniques and her aesthetic through many years of experimentation. “It’s a funny thing, but you get to know when a piece is finished,” she explains. “In shapes, dimensionality, in surface, all the elements have to come together to have a nice balance, so you know when you have achieved that balance, it is finished.”
Describing her process in the same way you might imagine a sculptor describe molding a piece of art, you can tell that Duca truly is an artist. It was, in fact, while pursuing an art degree from the School of Art in Rome and the European Institute of Design that she found her artistic calling in jewelry design. After moving to the states and starting her own line in 2005, Duca is now embracing the advice of her mentors in the CFDA program to grow her business and expand her audience including exploring the idea of a fashion jewelry collection that is set to come out at the beginning of next year. Emanuela’s own advice to aspiring, young designers: “Take the courage to take a risk.” Her own biggest risk was moving from Rome to New York City. It certainly has paid off.
By Jaime Lin Weinstein
As the niece of fashion designer Kate Spade, it’s not hard to see the namesake brand’s colorful and playful aesthetic come across in the work of Whitney Pozgay who launched her own line, WHIT, in 2010. Five collections later, Pozgay is now honing in on what her aesthetic is really about and working on developing her business with help from the CFDA’s Fashion Incubator program. She travelled to Atlanta last week along with three of the ten brands chosen to take part in the second round of the CFDA’s two-year program, where we got to see her latest collection and chat with the designer about the WHIT line, the WHIT girl and her journey through the world of fashion.
On her famed aunt and her contribution to Whitney’s style and career, Pozgay explained, “Katie had such an understanding of what women were wearing and what they needed. She was doing handbags that were bright and happy and had personality, but were also something you could wear everyday and I think she made it acceptable to not be afraid of color and prints.” Color and prints were abundant in Whitney’s most recent collection for Spring 2013. Inspired by a recent trip to St. Lucia, the collection features bold leaf and Caribbean-themed prints and nautical stripes shown in mix-and-match separates and easy sheath dresses. “I’m a sucker for stripes,” Whitney said. “I love a good French stripe t-shirt to wear with basically anything…I almost approach them as a neutral. I think they go with everything.”
While stripes are a staple and the seasonal inspirations are apparent as geographical themes emerge in the prints presented in each collection (her outer space-inspired Fall 2012 line featured a dress and jumpsuit in a planetary motif print), it’s Pozgay’s overall style, described as both modern and vintage, classic and quirky, that is making fans of girls from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side. This flirty and feminine meets relaxed, tomboy aesthetic has evolved through her experiences working for other designers, namely Spade and multi-brand retailer Steven Alan. “I love working for other people because you are given this box of here is what the aesthetic is and you have to work within that and that’s always a really fun challenge. When I was at Kate I got a really good foundation of color and prints and having a sense of humor with clothing and then at Steven Alan I got a foundation with tomboy wear and nurturing the more downtown side of my aesthetic,” the designer divulged. “And I kind of fall in between the two. So working for myself I’m able to pull from all the things that I love and make that box myself.”
Originally wanting to pursue a career in costume design, Pozgay soon decided that she, “hated how things got boxed up at the end of each show,” and thus decided to pursue fashion design because of its real-world application. “I really want to design what people wear in real life…It’s really about the clothing having its own story and I want it to be wearable by a bunch of different women,” Pozgay remarked. “I think that’s the most important part about designing clothing. It’s not even the dream or the fantasy, it’s about the real women who want to wear them.”
Now with the support of the CFDA Fashion Incubator program, Whitney is not only able to focus on creating fashion for those real women (who she often affectionately refers to as, “WHIT girls”), but she’s stepping closer to the dream and the fantasy of having a successful fashion line and being an integral part of the American fashion community, too. “People often refer to fashion as a cold, cut-throat industry, but I think the CFDA is a perfect example of how that is really not the case,” she asserted. “They welcomed us all as young designers… They have such a dense support system of seasoned professionals that we’re able to go to for advice…and everyone is super supportive of each other and helpful. It’s been a really nice surprise to see how welcoming the industry is.”
By Jaime Lin Weinstein
Having honed their design skills working on the men’s design team at Gap, Inc., brothers Doug and Ben Burkman decided to launch their own line in the Spring of 2009. With a collection consisting widely of plaid flannel shirts, striped tanks and woven beach bracelets, it comes of no surprise when Doug tells me, “I read online there was somebody that said Burkman Bros is like Ralph Lauren, but they took a hit of acid and threw a backpack on and went globetrotting around the world.” And while they actually embrace this kind of vibe in style, it is one that is, in fact, authentic. The brothers are avid travelers and take inspiration from the places they visit, integrating prints and fabric treatments from around the world into each season’s pieces.
Though frequent voyagers whose recent adventures include the likes of Sri Lanka and Myanmar, last week was their first trip to the city of Atlanta thanks to their participation in the second round of the CFDA’s Fashion Incubator program. As one of ten growing brands selected for the two-year enterprise, the young designers will be given mentoring in order to grow and sustain their business and networking opportunities such as the Atlanta showcase, which provided us the opportunity to speak about their brand, and what distinguishes them from other menswear brands, like, say, the Gap. According to the brothers, “The number one thing that sets us apart from every other designer is that we design and develop all the print patterns in our collection, so everything is original. All the fabrics are bespoke, original, made only for us,” explains Ben. “I always like to give the analogy of when I go to a menswear shop and I’ll see designer A and B, and they might have the same plaid because they’re buying it from the same fabric mill.”
So that plaid flannel shirt really isn’t just another plaid flannel shirt. It is an original, globally-inspired, classic menswear staple infused with a refined ruggedness that allows you to wear it to dinner in New York City, or while hiking the countryside in Burma. Moreover, it is what Doug and Ben actually want to be wearing. “Doug and I wanted to create a brand that we would wear ourselves…It is designed for us with our friends in mind. And the fortunate thing is that a wider audience has bought into that and likes what we do.” And people do like it. In addition to their own line and an unofficial celebrity endorsement from Kanye West who was seen wearing the brother’s bracelets at Coachella this year, they also collaborated with Urban Outfitters to create “The Tourist” collection complete with fish print popover shirts and rope sandals. They are currently working on a new collaboration of which details are still mum, but the duo did speak to the guidance of the CFDA program on such ventures: “Our mentors have been so helpful over the past few weeks in discussing all the finer points of negotiations, packages, legal, what you ask for…asking questions that we, as designers, may not ask,” explained Ben.
With the success they have already seen and the future successes sure to come thanks to their new connection with the CFDA, I asked if they had any advice for other aspiring, young designers seeking to make their place in the fashion community today. Their answers came easy. “Stay true to your vision,” replied Ben. “If you believe in what you are doing and what you have to offer the world, then people will be receptive to that honesty and integrity and originality,” added Doug.
By Jaime Lin Weinstein
You may remember Daniel Vosovic from Season 2 of Project Runway (and the Project Runway: All Star Challenge). A fan favorite, viewers instantly fell in love with his affectionate personality and modernly urbane style through the television screen. Seven years, numerous head designer and assistant positions, the launch of his own line and recent acceptance into the second round of the CFDA’s Fashion Incubator program later, I sat down with Mr. Vosovic during last week’s designer showcase in Atlanta to talk about what’s changed between now and then. “I would say that the DNA is still there: clean lines; form, meaning great shapes; texture – but I would say that the message is much more defined,” Daniel explained. “I was on the show 4 days after I graduated college, and as most young people you think that you know what you’re doing and whom you’re dressing. But after spending time working for other companies and whatnot, the message became a lot clearer to me. So it’s not different, it’s just more refined – who I’m dressing, who I’m targeting.”
The client he is targeting? “Cool girls with modern sensibility. They appreciate great design, but it doesn’t have to slap them upside the head.” Vosovic’s collection this season certainly emulates that girl he describes. Inspired by Austrian painter Egon Schiele, the clothes mimic the expressive line and gestural figures of his art. For example, a chartreuse dress made of flowing chiffon and featuring a jagged mosaic print adopted from Schiele’s early work mimics the flesh of the women in the artist’s paintings, contrasted by the sharp angles of their body lines.
Daniel’s designs are not only impressing members of the industry (his entry into the CFDA program alone stands as proof), but those cool girls everywhere he’s targeting are appreciating his fashions, too. A dress from Vosovic’s fall line was seen earlier this year on one of Hollywood’s latest “cool girls,” actress Emma Stone. It’s those girls that are making the hard work and long journey worth it to Daniel. “At the end of the day, the press, the hype, all of that stuff, to me, the reason I work 16 hour days is because I love the expression on a woman, on a friend’s face, when she tries on one of my new garments and its like, ‘Oh, shit there’s a peacock in the room!’ She’s confident, sexy, strong, and those qualities I think are in my customers. She may not know it, but I love the fact that I can sew fabric in a certain way, choose a certain color, and it can transform the way they feel…I love that I have that sort of sway over someone…that I can give someone qualities that they weren’t sure they had.”
Beyond fostering the participants’ talent and providing exposure to their brands, the CFDA Incubator program really seeks to help grow and sustain the designers’ business. A common sentiment among them, explained somewhat unashamedly by Vosovic: “Don’t underestimate your support for young, emerging designers.” What he means is that despite the fact that you may see their clothing in a magazine or see a celebrity wearing their collection that does not mean that they are at a point of financial stability. They are still in need of consumer support. “If you actually enjoy our work, put your money where your mouth is,” Daniel continued. “That’s a very blatant answer, but I also feel it’s what this program is about…Grow your business.” Fashion Incubator actually has a partnership with NYU Stern School of Business and each designer is paired with an MBA student and an advisor from the industry to work specifically on the financial side of their business. With their help, Daniel is hoping to, “actually pay myself a salary.”
By Sydia Bell
For the first time since its initial launch over two years ago, the CFDA’s (Council for Fashion Designers of America) Fashion Incubator program hit the road leaving their home in New York City to share their work, and themselves, with the Atlanta market. Of the ten participants, Project Runway season two finalist and All-Start Champion Daniel Vosovic, jeweler Emanuela Duca, the Burkman Bros, and Whitney Pozgay of WHIT brought their latest collections to show off and found time to connect with aspiring designers here in Atlanta.
The purpose of the Incubator program is to help support the next generation of fashion designers in New York City. For the next two years, the ten participating brands will receive unprecedented access to business mentors (like longtime executive for Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, Roopal Patel), networking opportunities, educational seminars and low cost studio space to foster their promising fashion talent.
On December 12th CFDA took over the W Hotel in Buckhead and began the day with a mentorship breakfast attended by Savannah College of Art and Design senior fashion majors. Conversations delving into life after graduation were held in small groups over roasted potatoes, scrambled egg muffins and fruit cups. Fashion Incubator designers dispensed invaluable information as it pertained to the importance of internships and working for others before undertaking the task of starting their own line. Students were also urged to bring their portfolios for review.
For many, like aspiring designer Juanita Holmes, this experience not only allowed her to receive feedback from these noteworthy people in the fashion industry, but more importantly helped her to grasp ideas from branding to understanding your customers’ demographic
Atlanta is known for it’s R&B and hip hop culture. Over the years, the city has become one of the five biggest music cities in the country. One of the front men and Atlanta icons behind the music scene, Frank Ski, formally announced this morning that he will be ending his fourteen-year tenure with radio station V-103—the People’s Station. Frank Ski moved here in 1998 to begin working with V-103, and in that time, he’s started a family, opened outside businesses, began charity organizations and much more. As a radio personality, Frank Ski has had some major carreer milestones with V-103—he had the last ever interview with Ms. Coretta Scott King and an interview with President Barack Obama during his term as Chicago Senator. Musically, he’s had interviews with both legendary performers Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder.
Frank Ski began his radio/music career before ending up in Atlanta. Notable is his popular classic hip hop song Doo Doo Brown from the 1980s. Ski will be missed in Atlanta, but assures the city that this is not goodbye, rather to be continued…very soon.