From Haute Couture to Sneakers: Planned Anniversary Events Offer Fashionable Fit for All

In 2014 a small group of passionate Saint Louisans set out to revitalize St. Louis’ historic Garment District and return the city’s bragging rights as an international center for fashion design and education. By most accounts, in only five years, Saint Louis Fashion Fund has made a giant leap – especially with the recent announcement of a $5 million high-tech manufacturing facility – in putting St. Louis back on the fashion map.

“St. Louis has a long and proud history as one of the country’s leading centers for fashion, perhaps only surpassed by New York,” explained Susan Sherman, co-founder of the Saint Louis Fashion Fund. “Our goal was simple: to create an organization that would support emerging designers, promote fashion education and outreach and, in the process, bring back St. Louis’ reputation as a fashion capital.”    

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said: “Saint Louis Fashion Fund has taken this town by storm. Their laser-sharp vision has been instrumental in helping bring back the vibrancy and the business of fashion to the city. Their momentum will continue to be a major force in helping St. Louis grow as an innovation hub to attract and retain creatives and fashion companies to our region.”

Fashion Fund Home Runs

Proof of the Fashion Fund’s growing reputation can be found in the attention given to it by notable fashion industry experts from across the country. Fashion icons such as Fern Mallis, Founder of New York Fashion Week, Gary Wassner, CEO of Hilldun & Chairman of Interluxe Holdings, and Christene Barberich, Global Editor-in-Chief & Co-Founder of Refinery 29 have served as judges for the Fashion Fund’s Caleres Emerging Designer Awards, which helped market and brand St. Louis as a fashion city. Internationally acclaimed former Vogue Editor-at-Large Andre Leon Talley has made several visits to St. Louis and has become a strong advocate for the Fashion Fund’s mission. Legendary Iris Apfel, whose design career includes work at the White House for nine presidents and first ladies over seven decades, was a recent award recipient from the Fashion Fund. Victor Luis, CEO & Director of Tapestry, Inc., was a featured keynoter at of Fashion Fund’s speaker events at Washington University and provided transformational business advice to his audience with the inaugural designer class and local designers.

“Each of these fashion industry superstars came to St. Louis, saw the work we are doing and were highly impressed,” said Fashion Fund Executive Director Kathleen Bibbins. “They left here talking about us and continue to advocate for our role in the industry.”

This national exposure has led to coverage in fashion publications, feature participation in fashion shows from SLAM Vogue party produced by the Saint Louis Art Museum to TRIBUTE produced by Mother Model Management, and recognition during the annual Fashion Weeks in New York City. The Fashion Fund’s initial class of six emerging designers, which completed their program last year, included such top caliber brands as AUDRA, which has been featured on, and in major retail outlets such as Neiman Marcus, Stanley Korshak in Dallas and Bergdorf Goodman in New York.

“The past two years have been an invaluable experience, one that has opened up amazing opportunities and inspired my creativity and business skills,” said Audra Noyes, owner and creative director of AUDRA. Noyes decided to grow her business in St. Louis and remain involved with the Fund following her two-year residency. “It makes sense to build my brand here. St. Louis offers several advantages that align with my current business strategy. Additionally, I have wonderful local clients, brand ambassadors, and industry mentors. – the Fund’s workspace amenities, industry connections along with a very loyal, local clientele – it’s the right fit.”

“We’ve also been able to make valuable connections for the designers in the global world of fashion including online platforms for sales, public relations firms, showrooms and introductions to clients all over the U.S. and are excited to watch their careers blossom in the future,” added Bibbins.
Education and Community Outreach

“An important and ongoing component of the Fund’s mission is to educate the younger generation as well as the broader design community about the business and growth opportunities available in this dynamic industry,” said Madeline Akins, Saint Louis Fashion Fund Board Chair and an executive for Michael Kors in New York.

Earlier this year, the Fund announced its newly created Fashion Lab which is a collaborative work space for resident designers that also offers educational and networking events, fashion-related programming, and professional membership opportunities. According to Akins, the Fund will continue toopen its doors to the broader community to take advantage of the Fund’s work space and special programming. “In addition, Fashion Fund has expanded its educational programming with area high schools and other groups through its Future Fashion Education program that brings fashion career and design education to area students,” she said.

Miki’s Closet, a traveling, state-of-the art fashion truck better known as Fashion Education on Wheels will continue to make “stops” around town supporting the Fund’s education program as well as promoting awareness of the Fashion Fund’s mission throughout the region. Miki’s Closet has reached hundreds of students at area schools such as Lift for Life, Eureka High School, Cor Jesu, Normandy High School and thousands of St. Louisans through various community events at the Saint Louis Art Museum, Tower Grove Park and other community venues over the past two years. 

The Fashion Fund will present its Summer Teen Fashion Intensive Camp for 14-18-year-olds that was piloted last summer in collaboration with COCA. The summer camp program has been expanded from two to three fashion camps – adding a Teen Fashion Intensive II for more advanced students. Camps will take place on June 10-14, June 17-21 and July 8-12 at the Fashion Fund. And, new to this year’s Future Fashion program is Sneaker School in partnership with St. Louis company Elan Polo, which is a global shoe design, sourcing and supply company that distributes 45 million pairs annually. At this very special one-day workshop on August 17, students will be tapping into Elan Polo’s immense expertise and learning the basics of shoe design. For more information about the Fund’s Future Fashion education programming, please contact

Other community outreach programs will continue to include the Fund’s well-established Creative Process and Speaking of Fashion Speaker Series. Akins pointed out how important the Fund’s educational partners – such as Carr Textiles, Found by the Pound, Maritz, Tacony, Saigh Foundation and the Fashion School at Washington University– have been to the success of the Fund’s ongoing program of work. “The impact of their generous contributions continues to make an impressive impact on our daily operations.”

Looking towards the Future

         “In the past five years, we have raised more than $2 million for fashion in this region and we have established the Fashion Fund as a local and national player in the fashion industry,” said Bibbins. “Moving forward our plans are to continue to support the Fund’s eight new Fashion Lab residents and their brands. In addition, we will continue expand our Future Fashion program to offer more classes to high school students as well as to younger students and adults to engage all levels of learners. We plan to increase our school outreach to 15schools across the region. By end of year, we also expect to have 100+ professional memberships. One of our primary focuses will be on economic development working alongside city and civic leaders to revitalize the garment district as well as build out the fashion ecosystem in partnership with Evolution St. Louis to establish St. Louis as a third fashion capital.

         “Our history tells us that fashion is as important to the fabric of our City as baseball and beer,” she noted. “We are a part of St. Louis’ story!”

Celebrate 5 with 5 

         To celebrate its initial success and broaden its engagement with the community, Saint Louis Fashion Fund has planned a series of special events throughout 2019. There is something for the entire community and ticket prices range from FREE to $250. 

  • Saint Louis Fashion Fund Pool Party presented by The Last Hotel

       Date: Sunday, July 14, 2019

              Time: 1pm

Location: Top of The Last Hotel (formerly known as the International Shoe Building)

Highlights: This 5th Anniversary Kick-Off Celebration features games, door prizes, bites and bar. 

Agile One will be the DJ. 
Event Chairperson: Sarah Stallmann
Tickets: $25/person

  • 5 O’Clock Shadow presented by The Last Hotel

Date: Thursday, September 19, 2019

Time: 5pm

Location: The Last Hotel

Highlights: Men’s Pop-Up Event featuring local brands. Business/Business Casual designs modeled by “Everyday Men.” Experts on skincare for men, men’s accessories and stylists on-site. Event Chaipersons: Bill Carson and Kristin Johnson

Tickets: FREE

  • Fashion Fund Goes West Presented by Neiman Marcus

Date: Thursday, September 26, 2019

Time: 6pm

Location: Neiman Marcus

Men’s Shopping Event with craft cocktail bar and bites from Zodiac. Models showcasing latest designs and men’s products. DJ and door prizes.

Tickets: FREE

  • Speaking of Fashion Series featuring the iconic Dapper Dan
    Date: Saturday,October 19, 2019
    Time: Noon
    Location: Emerson Auditorium at Washington University-St. Louis
    Highlights: An in-depth discussion with the legendary Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day, a pioneer of streetwear in the early 1980s and whose designs flooded the red carpet at the recent Met Ball. With Gucci as a business partner he never disappoints. He will receive the Fashion Fund’s highest award while in St. Louis and will be a special guest at the 5thanniversary gala that evening at Neiman Marcus.

Event Chairperson: Tania Beasley-Jolly

Tickets: FREE but need to make reservations

  • “Fashion’s Night Out”: The Art of Fashion at Neiman Marcus
    Title Sponsor: Edward Jones

Date: Saturday, October 19, 2019
Time: 6pm

Location: Neiman Marcus

Highlights: A Met Gala-inspired “Red Carpet” entrance by guests encouraged to don wearable art. Guests will experience a New York Fashion Week worthy runway show that features luxury to streetwear followed by a live auction conducted by KSDK’s incomparable Rene Knott and fabulous dance after party. Auction items include exotic getaways, iconic fashion items and access to elite fashion and art experiences.

Honorary Chair: Diane Sullivan, CEO, Caleres

Event Co-Chairs: Penny Pennington & Kristen Johnson 
Host Committee Chairs: Susan Block & Phyllis Langsdorf 
Tickets: $250

“Edward Jones has been a champion of the Fashion Fund since its inception,” said Penny Pennington, managing partner of Edward Jones and Saint Louis Fashion Fund board member. “It has been exciting to watch the transformation of the historic Garment District and see such results in five years. Kristen Johnson and I are honored to be a part of the Fund’s 5thanniversary gala celebration to mark this significant milestone.”

Via Press Release