With the advent of the D.C. Fashion Incubator Program, local designers looking to break into the mainstream now have the opportunity to gain in-depth, behind-the-scenes training in both the creative and business ends of the industry.
The program’s fourth incubator location, recently unveiled at Macy’s Metro Center in downtown D.C., aims to encourage local designers to grow and maintain their businesses within the D.C. metropolitan region.
Shaka King, the program’s executive director of operations and longtime fashion veteran who has worked with celebrities such as Martin Lawrence, Queen Latifah and Gregory Hines, said the program provides training, mentoring and resources for designers often limited by geography.
“What i’m finding is that, if you’re not in major fashion like New York, which is the capital of fashion, then there is often a lack of the whole learning process,” King said. “If you’re good it’s going to show, no matter how many pieces you assemble, but it’s not about the competitiveness, it’s about being able to get up and produce great work and being prepared to be uncomfortable.
“Most businesses just operate from where they are,” King said. “If they have two dresses, then they sew them and sell them, sew them and sell them, never looking into how to properly expand their businesses and then they run into a wall. I am trying to assist with that.”
The yearlong Incubator program, established in 2015 by Christine Cropper, is a collaborative effort with We Are DC, Prince George’s County Arts & Humanities Council and the D.C. Fashion Foundation, in hopes of providing designers the workspace and essential business resources needed to run successful and sustainable fashion companies.
Taylor Miller, a fashion intern from Howard University, gushed over the opportunity to work behind the scenes.
“I’ve only been here since April, but I’ve already learned so much about the fashion industry and the importance of things like time, accuracy and budget,” Miller said.
During the program, along with intense mentorship, residents can also look forward to creating and showcasing two collection shows during their season, presented at the W Hotel and experience different global fashions with DCFI’s Cultural Exchange Partners, that previously included PromPeru and the Frallain African Fashion Fund, Cropper said.
“We work with creatives who don’t understand the business behind fashion,” Cropper said. “We grow the business and give residents an opportunity at longevity within fashion.”