Philadelphia Fashion Incubator

April 25, 2013 6:49:13 AM PDT
It's tucked away in a small space you'd miss unless you know it. But the fashion industry already knows about the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator, occupying a small space inside Macy's at 13th and Market.

The incubator is a partnership involving Macy's, fashion experts, local colleges and others. Graduates of three local colleges and unaffiliated designers who live in Philadelphia compete for slots in the program.

Those who gain entry, only five per year, get advice on how to sharpen their business skills without losing their creative edge.

Philadelphia's well-known fashion expert Nicole Cashman is one of the participants. She's excited about Philadelphia getting in on the ground floor of the incubator movement.

Chicago launched America's first but Philadelphia was a close second. Since then, other programs have been launched in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

All provide women with proven fashion design skills the business pointers they'll need to keep their enterprises going. Melissa D'Agostino has a degree in textile design from Moore College of Art.

She's been creating fabrics and producing clothing for four years. She was a member of the first incubator "class" a year ago. What she learned in the program gave her enthusiasm for the business world to match her design skills, and built her confidence for success.

Enrolled in this year's "class", Trisha Williams did not attend a design college but has been marketing her classic fashion pieces mostly online.

Just weeks into the program, she has realized how business principles make her enterprise grow. Rather than creating a garment then seeking a customer, she now starts the process with a sense of what women want, then using her ability to make unique, enduring pieces to meet those needs.

She, too, has a growing sense of business confidence. Both women have dreams of success on a larger scale, but both hope to achieve that without having to take any facet of their business outside Philadelphia.

A century ago, the city was a leader in the textile industry with many top-name clothing manufacturers right in town. Most of those entities no longer exist. But there's growing optimism that the city can re-establish itself on the world design stage.

Nicole Cashman compares this emerging textile leadership to what's been happening in the restaurant industry, where Philadelphia is seen as a leader in new cuisine and diverse dining experiences. She believes a day is coming...maybe soon...when people in other fashion centers will demand the "Philadelphia look".

The incubator aims to be a driving force in that movement. You can learn more about Melissa D'Agostino's textile designs and her clothing on her website, where you may sign up for a newsletter. For now, most of her designs are sold at trunk shows.

Trisha Williams is a current designer-ion-residence at the fashion incubator but maintains her business as well. You may see her creations online at Trisha Williams. The Philadelphia Fashion Incubator is online, too.Visit their website.

Note that entry into their program is a competitive process which starts with an application. The program is available to graduates from the three major design institutions locally - Drexel University, Moore College of Art, and Philadelphia University...formerly Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. But admission is also available to Philadelphia residents who exhibit potential but do not have a degree from one of those schools.

Macy's is one of the sponsors of the incubator program, providing headquarters in their historic store at 13th and Market in Center City. It's just the latest from the store associated with landmark accomplishments from indoor electric lighting and the movement that brought America Mother's Day.