Saint Louis Fashion Fund has announced eight designers have been selected for its new Fashion Lab program located at 1533 Washington Avenue and will be moving in for one year on April 1. The new residents include a wide range of talent from a former Project Runway star, a Director of Communications of Wells Fargo who is also a handbag designer, an East St. Louis hair stylist whose fans include former Vogue Editor Andre Leon Talley and Deborah Roberts of ABC News to a former interior designer taking on the Junior market (which was originally invented in St. Louis).

“We are thrilled that each of the selected designers are St. Louis-based fashion and design businesses. They will be the first Residents of the Fund’s newly created Fashion Lab which is a collaborative work space that enables designers to showcase their work with a showroom, production studio as well as opportunities to learn and share experiences with one another and other community creatives,” said, Kathleen Bibbins, executive director, of the Saint Louis Fashion Fund.

The Fashion Lab Residents were chosen by a comprehensive application process and were interviewed by an 11-member selection committee comprised of Fashion Fund board members, staff and community leaders.  The new Residents are:

Michael Drummond:Fondly referred to as the “Dean of STL Fashion,” Michael is a veteran of Project Runway, season eight, with a client list including actress Tika Sumpter, New York Fashion Week founder Fern Malis, and supermodel and television host Heidi Klum.Largely self-taught, the multi-talented artist works as a fashion design consultant and textile designer for SKIF International, produces his own line of clothing under his given name, and is a commercial stylist for print and film. In his work, he seeks to marry practicality and dramatic design and loves large scale prints, delicate knits, simple comfortable shapes, deconstruction, and a dark palette.

Dillon Eisman:Dillon is the Founder & CEO of Sew Swag Inc., a 501(c)(3) that upcycles damaged clothing for homeless youth with the mission to reduce textile waste and restore the confidence of those in-need. Originally from California, Eisman currently studies Business Organization & Strategic Management with a minor in Fashion Design at Washington University in St. Louis where he plans to expand his fashion nonprofit to benefit the local communities of

Ronke Faleti:Ronke emigrated from Nigeria to Texas when she was 11 with her family. After college, she worked at JP Morgan Chase in Florida, then moved to St. Louis in 2008 to work at Wells Fargo and added fashion design to her high-profile portfolio. In 2018, she created a line of timeless carrying bags to match the fluid timeline of the modern working woman. Her brand, Korédé, which means “bring goodness,” is dedicated to high-achieving, multi-dimensional women who require unique carrying bags for their unique schedules.

Paulie Gibson:Paulie’s contemporary menswear collection is a nationally acclaimed brand. In 2012, his collection was selected for the Phoenix Fashion Week Emerging designer program and was then purchased by retail giant While showcasing his work in Phoenix, Los Angeles celebrity stylists took notice, and he was invited to STYLE Fashion Week in LA. The following season his collection returned for a second showing and was filmed and featured on America’s Next Top Model Cycle 20. Paulie’s brand has been worn at the Grammy’s, VMAs, movie premieres, music videos and published in numerous publications.

Lisa Hu:As a former finance director for a global company, Lisa struggled to find a stylish bag to satisfy her demanding career. She founded Lux & Nyx, which has become a nationally recognized brand, which focuses around concepts of luxury, functionality, and eco-friendliness. Her bags are designed to get the busy woman from the gym, to the boardroom or a plane, and out to dinner with friends. Each bag is handcrafted with high quality materials, including Lux & Nyx’s exclusive flexible and weather resistant Freedom Fiber, as well as upcycled leather. Sustainability is a key component of the brand and goes hand in hand with maintaining a luxurious, minimalist

Dianne Isbell:Dianne is a nationally recognized milliner and the founder of HATS by DI-Anne. She has designed hats for luminaries such as Lady Gaga and President George H.W. Bush’s family. Her one-of-a-kind designs have caught the attention of fans across the country. Career notables include: ”New York Fashion Week Winner, “Best of Show” designs at St. Louis’ Annual Forest Park Forever Hat Luncheon and at the Naples, Florida Botanical Gardens Hat Luncheon; and one of her hat designs was selected for a year-long display in the Kentucky Derby Hat Museum.  Her brand is available in St. Louis, Naples, Florida, and Lexington, Kentucky.

Everett Johnson:Growing up in East St. Louis, Everett’s fashion inspiration came from his mother and both grandmothers who said ladies should be meticulously dressed and groomed, with regal comportment.  He was catapulted into the fashion industry when his parents gifted him a business requiring him to quickly become a responsible entrepreneur and is one of area’s most renowned stylists.  Everett also experiments with various textiles and hardware, creating one-of-a-kind jewelry and designs a handbag line Liza B (named after his two grandmothers).  His ultimate goal is to use his line work to celebrate his family lineage while offering a high quality, timeless product to be shared throughout generations. (Website under construction) 

Retta Leritz Tussey  – Retta is acelebrated interior and product designer who has set her sights on a new project: designing fashions for the next generation of tastemakers. Her collection, Retta Jane, is designed for young women, ages 8 through 14, and will focus on timeless yet fashion-forward pieces, including dresses, separates and outerwear.  The company, named for her grandmother, mother and self, who all share the same moniker, focuses on a classic sense of style with highest-quality materials and construction, while remaining relevant to the modern, active lifestyle of girls.Retta’s award-winning work and product line for Juniors has garnered attention from the likes of DominoHouse Beautiful and Southern Living. under construction)

All brands can be purchased on their individual website or at the Fashion Fund at 1533 Washington Avenue. 

Fashion Fund’s Program Manager Audra Harrold will provide the day-to-day oversight of the Fashion Lab.

“The selection of these Saint Louis based fashion and design professionals, who will be under the Fund’s roof for the next year, is an exciting evolution of the Fund’s work of supporting fashion in Saint Louis,” said Madeline Akins, chair of the Fashion Fund’s board of directors. “The re-focus of the Fund’s operation will reinvigorate downtown’s garment district by creating a collaborative work space and will enable the Fashion Fund Residents to make important connections in the global world of fashion.  It will also help to continue to bring back the vibrancy and the business of fashion to the historic downtown Garment District.” Fashion Fund’s board and staff are working with city and civic officials to revitalize the St. Louis downtown Garment District. 

The new Fashion Fund residence program provides designers with the elements necessary to support the business and art of fashion in St. Louis including display/showroom space, private event opportunities, use of creative space/sewing machines, and active membership to the Fund’s professional member program expected to launch later this spring. The membership program will be available to the entire community – from designers and stylists to models, photographers, boutiques and other fashion related businesses or for anyone interested in fashion and design. 

Bibbins also announced that Audra Noyes of AUDRA, a member of the Fund’s inaugural design class, will continue to house and grow her business at the Fashion Fund through 2019 and serve as a Designer-At-Large. “We said at the very beginning of the Fund’s inception that if one of our inaugural class designers remained in St. Louis it would be a win-win,” said Bibbins. “We are excited she will be making special appearances on behalf of the Fund sharing her experiences with aspiring fashion and design students and the broader creative community.”

The new residence program provides program participants with 24-hour building access, Wi-Fi, printing, 2,500-square foot display/showroom space, private event opportunities, use of creative space/sewing machines, and active membership to the Fund’s professional member program expected to launch later this spring.


Candidates’ applications were judged on the following criteria: 

  • Brand Identity: Illustrating successful, effective and creative marketing, events, and/or advertising strategies to further their business; 
  • Business Potential: Brands planning and demonstrating solid growth plan of sales in products/services, 
  • Philanthropy: An awareness and desire to give support to the mission of the Fashion Fund through education, event participation and other opportunities; and
  • Culture: A diverse, well-rounded entrepreneurial and collaborative group of professional representatives of the various areas of the fashion industry.

The Fashion Lab Residents will also have the opportunity to contribute in the Fund’s expanded educational programming with area high schools and other groups through its “Future Fashion” program that brings fashion career and design education to area students. “A critical component of our mission is to educate younger generations about the opportunities available in this dynamic industry,” said Bibbins.

Ongoing community outreach programs of the Fund will continue to include its Creative Process, Speaking of Fashion Speaker Series, Miki’s Closet, a traveling, state-of-the art fashion truck that will continue to provide onsite school education as part of our Future Fashion program throughout the region. Miki’s Closet has reached hundreds of students at area schools and thousands of St. Louisans through various community events over the past two years. The Fashion Fund will continue to partner with COCA to present its Summer Fashion Intensive Camp piloted last year. These 5-day summer camp programs received rave reviews and are already starting to fill up. 

Via Press Release