As the Saint Louis Fashion Fund wraps up with its inaugural class of fashion designers and celebrates their successes, officials there are already developing new strategies to increase the reach and impact of the four-year old organization. Planned changes include opening up the Fashion Fund to the broader design community; expanding its educational programing with area high schools and other groups; creating a Fashion Consortium of area fashion companies to facilitate collaboration and access to resources; launching a professional membership program; and continuing to work with city and civic officials to revitalize the downtown Garment District.

“We are pleased with the success each of our designers has achieved,” said Susan Sherman, chair of the Fashion Fund’s 35-member Board. “We’ve been able to make important connections for them in the global world of fashion and, in turn, our designers have earned local and national recognition being featured in such stores as Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, among others. Another one of our designers has been written up on the prestigious fashion websites, and Locally two of our designers received Arch Grants to support their brands and several designers have been commissioned to design uniforms for the Last Hotel and Angad hotel staffs. Others are launching their own clothing and jewelry lines. We are most excited to watch their careers blossom in the future.”

Fashion Fund’s inaugural class of six designers will conclude their residency in December. Executive Director Kathleen Bibbins noted that the experience has been mutually beneficial and has provided significant feedback in helping develop the Fund’s strategic direction moving forward. “During the last two years, we have learned a lot in working with our talented class and the St. Louis design community. These lessons learned have helped us understand how we can continue to best promote and support the fashion and design industry in the St. Louis region. That will be the thrust of our work in 2019.”

According to Audra Noyes, a member of the inaugural design class: “The past two years have been an invaluable experience, one that has opened up amazing opportunities and inspired my creativity and business skills,” Although I hail from Delaware, St. Louis has become home, and I look forward to being a part of this vibrant ecosystem that brings back the business of fashion to the historic Garment District.”

Rather than recruit a new class of designers, Bibbins explained that they plan tore-focus the Fund’s operation to embrace more ofthe broader fashion and design community by creating a collaborative, rental work space for six fashion and design businesses which will now be called the Design Co-op. “We will offer studio space and showroom/retail space initially and then will provide additional amenities as we further build out this phase of our program. There is a real need for a place where the creative community can learn, share experiences and collaborate.We’ve heard from countless young designers including the inaugural Incubator class how important community collaborations and connections are to the success of creatives in the business. The Design Co-op will provide these resources and opportunities. Details are still being finalized for the Design Co-op, and we will have more information which will be posted on our web-site later this year as we continue to develop the program,” she said.

Fashion Fund will continue to offer and expand its current community outreach programs including its Creative Process, Speaking of Fashion Speaker Series, and its educational program Future Fashion which brings fashion career and design education to area students. Miki’s Closet, the traveling, state-of-the art fashion truck, will continue to be seen around town supporting our education program as well as promoting awareness of the Fashion Fund’s mission around the region, having reached hundreds of students at area schools and thousands of St. Louisans through various community events over the past two years. The Fashion Fund also teamed with COCA last summer to present a Summer Fashion Intensive Camp pilot program, attended by area high students and will enhance this program moving forward.  “An important component of our mission is to educate younger generations about the opportunities available in this dynamic industry,” said Bibbins.

In 2019, the Fashion Fund alsoplans to convene a Fashion Consortium of area fashion and manufacturing companies to create a stronger voice for the local fashion industry. “We have a lot happening in this region with regard to fashion and design and this Consortium will help us focus our message and build awareness and leverage,” noted Bibbins. As a related step, the Fashion Fund will begin offering a professional membership program in collaboration with Boost Apparel, which can serve as a resource for the entire community – from designers and stylists to models, photographers, boutiques and other fashion related businesses or for anyone interested in fashion and design. More details about the membership program will be released by end of year.

“The critical factor needed to support emerging fashion brands is that we encompass more of the local fashion and design community,” added Bibbins. “We have demonstrated our ability to advance the careers and brands of these talented individuals, and we have laid the groundwork for more young people to consider fashion as an attractive career path. With these new directions, we believe we can foster a critical mass of talent, resources and energy that will move St. Louis back into the national spotlight as one of the country’s design and fashion centers.”

Via Press Release