Class of 2013 Design Entrepreneurs NYC Ends With Chromat and Ken Wroy Winning the Cash Prizes

Dr. Joyce F. Brown, Vasumathi Soundararajan, Becca McCharen, Jeanette Nostra

This summer, 37 New York-based fashion designers embarked on a fashion journey when they were selected to participate in Design Entrepreneurs NYC, a free “mini-mba” program that was developed by FIT and the NYCEDC and now in its second year.

Their curriculum was intensive and comprehensive. Designers were required to take three weekend seminar classes that focused on everything from marketing, operations and financials from industry professionals. Designer Richard Chai spoke to the group about his fashion track and the realities he faced in the business while growing his brand. They also had access to FIT resources and could take additional courses such as Excel for fashion designers, costing, social media and presentation tips.

The program paired each designer with a mentor to help them work through their business plan and support them along the way.

It culminated with a showcase and pitch night where 16 pre-seleceted designers had the opportunity to present their business plans to a panel of senior executives to get feedback and share their strategy for growth. The group was narrowed down to four brands including: Kai D, a Brooklyn-based menswear label and Kallio, a sustainable childrenswear company. At the end of the evening, Becca McCharen of Chromat, an architecturally inspired swimwear line which also creates caged pieces that have been worn by Beyonce, Nicki Minaj and Madonna was awarded with a check for $25,000, a contribution given by G-III Apparel Group.

Vasumathi Soundararajan, an FIT alumni and the Chief Underwearist of a menswear label called Ken Wroy, which is an anagram of New York received the second-place prize of $10,000 also from G-IIII.

For both women, Design Entrepreneurs NYC was their opportunity to put pen to paper and create a road map for their brand. Becca told us, “This was an amazing opportunity especially as a designer without a business background. The program shed light on so many things and gave me a chance to sit down and work on my plan.”
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Design Entrepreneurs NYC Spotlight: Vasumathi Soundararajan of Ken Wroy

Our design entrepreneur Vasumathi Soundararajan is ready to make her mark in the men’s underwear market. Read about her story, interesting fun fact and why she started Ken Wroy.

Can you tell us about your line?

Ken Wroy is a designer brand of men’s underwear. The underwear market is thriving like never before because more and more men have become fashion conscious and are into grooming. Women are bestowed with Victoria’s Secret, but men don’t have any Henry’s Secrets yet. Being inspired by NYC’s infectious energy, I set out to bring about a change in the perception of men’s underwear. After all, underwear is the first thing you wear and the last thing you take off, so give it the attention it deserves.

When did you start your line?

Early 2012.

Why did you start it?

I was simply bored with my husband’s underwear. Lol. As a designer, I like scrutinizing design elements that surrounds me. So it was hard and disappointing to see my husband in badly cut, loosely hanging underwear. He was practically wearing shorts inside his tailored pants. I didn’t want to change my life-partner, but I could definitely change his underwear wardrobe! This was a challenge I was keen to take up as a designer.

As I began to dwell into this subject, I heard many anecdotes of women sharing the same experience. Men can look charming wearing trendy clothes and classy suits. But when the clothes come off…Oh horror, it sometimes falls apart. I was always into prints and colors and underwear was a perfect product to unleash my creativity.

Can you give us three words to describe the brand?

Bold, Sleek and Sexy.

What’s your brand signature?

“Be fashioanable all the way.”

What your favorite piece in the collection?

My very first print called ‘Smoke’, inspired by Alexander Mc Queen.

Can you tell us about the new line? There are a lot of NYC-inspired pieces. Why did you shoot in Central Park?

Soaking in the fashion of NY, I am inspired by this dynamic city and the line was inspired by that feeling. As you guessed, the new line is called ‘New York Ness’ and just like the city, the line is electric and sexy. We shot in Central Park because no place is more iconic than that. Moreover, it was a great exposure, we had all the tourists taking photos with our underwear models.

Why did you apply to DENYC?

To connect with industry professionals and work with mentors. And to strengthen the discipline of my business with their help.

What do you hope to get out of the program?

The prize! That would be sweet. But apart from that, I have learnt a great deal about putting together a ‘solid plan’ for my business. It was a relief to pen all the numbers and ideas that were in my head and document it. The program has worked like a coach to streamline and navigate intelligibly towards my vision for Ken Wroy.

What’s the best part of being a NYC designer?

The city streets are a permanent runway.

Can you tell us a fun fact?

For our first launch party, we had 7 male models walk the ramp. At the after party, we had women jump to the stage to take photos and we got 900 photos taken in 3 hours of only women guests and the models.

Learn more about our design entrepreneur at Ken Wroy.  

Design Entrepreneurs NYC Spotlight: Melinda Huff of Mirame

Today we’re chatting with our Design Entrepreneur Melinda Huff, Founder and Chief Creative Officer at Mirame.

Can you tell us about your line?Mirame is a swimwear brand with a sportswear edge. We specialize in one piece silhouettes that are fashion forward. We also offer generous coverage bikinis that reference old Hollywood glamour.

When did you start your start Mirame? 

I launched Mirame in Febrauary 2011.

Why did you start it?

I started Mirame because of the gap in the market for edgy and advanced one piece silhouettes. Solid bodies are not represented in this category either. I wanted to expore the one piece in referene to dancewear and how our wardrobe can transition from beach to bistro.

Can you give us three words to describe the brand?

Beach to bistro.

What’s your brand signature?

Fashion forward one piece silhouettes.

Why did you apply to DENYC?

FIT is amazing. I had been receiving general business tips, but reached a wall and needed fashion industry specific guidance. DENYC was the obvious answer.

What do you hope to get out of the program?

Industry guidance in the merchandising and branding arenas.  Great connections with industry advisors and peers.

Favorite piece in your collection?

I love the new Ellen bikini.  It has a retro appeal, with a skirted bikini bottom and cap sleeve swim top.

Best part of being a NYC designer?

Everything at your fingertips!

Tell us a fun fact about yourself

I fell in love with swimwear when I found myself living on the north shores of Oahu with nothing but my sewing machine and suitcase in hand.  I took to making bathing suits as a way to make money so that I could feed myself.  A love affair was born!

Learn more about the label at Mirame.

Design Entrepreneurs NYC Spotlight: Ilana Kohn

Ilana Kohn

When did you start Ilana Kohn?

Summer Spring 2012

Tell us about your line?

I make casual, wash-n-wear women’s clothing featuring original prints that I design myself. The line is really all about the prints!

Why did you start it?

Prior to working in fashion, I worked as a commercial illustrator for close to a decade. When the economy tanked and took my bread & butter, publishing with it, I decided to return to grad school for historic preservation. While I was there, however, I became restless without any creative pursuits and began sewing. By the time I was ready to graduate, I decided to launch my line rather than go to work in the field.

Can you give us three words to describe the brand?

Bold, relaxed and print-based.

What’s your brand signature?

Prints and prints and prints!

Why did you apply to DENYC?

I applied to DENYC because I felt that I still have a lot to learn about the business side of things. Granted, as opposed to most designers I know, I actually really enjoy dealing with the business half and was eager to learn more!

What do you hope to get out of the program?

I hope to come out of the program with a better grasp on literally everything. This is such an excellent opportunity. I’m gonna take everything I can get! Granted, although I really do actually really enjoy marketing and sales, serious number crunching is so not my thing and I do hope they can manage to make a number girl out of me.

Your favorite piece of your collection?

I’m pretty excited about the jacquard knits that I have coming out for AW13!

Best part of being a NYC designer?

Getting to be friends with and be inspired by all the other amazing designers here. All the resources at our fingertips are certainly nothing I’d stick my nose up at either though!

Can you share a fun fact?

If I weren’t a clothing designer I’d be a professional kitty-puppy cuddlier.

Connect with Ilana at Ilana Kohn and get social with her on InstagramTwitter, her Blog, Facebook and Tumblr


Design Entrepreneurs in the News: Fashion Week Roundup

Our design entrepreneurs had a strong presence at New York Fashion Week. From showing at Lincoln Center to the piers and all over the city, their spring collections were wonderful. We weren’t the only ones that noticed their talent. Take a look at just some of the clippings!

Sarah Canner featured on 


Suzanne Rae featured on 

Parke & Ronen featured on 

Soham Dave featured on 

Marlon Gobel featured on 

Q&A With Design Entrepreneur Sunghee Bang

Sunghee Bang Spring/Summer 2013

Here’s our latest chat with design entrepreneur Sunghee Bang. She describes her brand as a beautiful, quality label with an element of surprise that is for women who enjoy the luxury feel of knitwear and strong craftsmanship.

How long have you been designing? I have been designing my line for 3 years.

You started you line after attending FIT. Did you work for McQueen before or after school? I interned for Alexander McQueen right before my senior year. It was my last summer break in my life, so I wanted to experience something special. In 2008, I designed the Eiffel Tower and coil body prints for his Spring 2009 collection. Working in London with Alexander McQueen provided me with an entirely different perspective on fashion. McQueen’s approach to design showed me that there is no one-way to design.

Sunghee Bang Spring/Summer 2013

What’s your inspiration for spring/summer 13?
This season is all about sporty, versatile and easy-to-wear knits. The collection consists of minimized silhouettes with unusual twists such as combining stripes and flower prints with shiny and matte textures, creating asymmetrical silhouettes with un-matched seams along with tailored woven and soft knit shapes.

Using unique techniques and playing with perforated textures, I created 54 pieces that worked together to harmonize various ideas.

Continue reading

Fashion Week Preview: Marlon Gobel’s You Can See “The Stars” Video

Marlon Gobel, our dapper, charming and talented menswear designer will be presenting his spring/summer 2013 collection at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on Saturday, September 8 at 2pm. His short film, “The Stars,” is the ultimate runway show teaser. Watch, listen and get ready!

Learn more about our Design Entrepreneur at MARLON GOBEL.

Celebrate the Arrival of Suzanne Rae Fall/Winter 2012 at Steven Alan on August 22

You’re invited to celebrate the launch of Suzanne Rae’s fall/winter 2012 collection at the Steven Alan retail store in Chelsea. A D.J. set by Whitney Fierce Hercules and Love Affair will kick off the night and shoppers will receive a 10% discount on the collection.

Suzanne, a Brooklyn-based womenswear designer and DENYC participant,  keen on empowering women through her well-fitting blouses, pants and dresses, gave us the scoop on what’s ahead.

Can you tell us about your fall/winter 2012 collection?

The collection is inspired by the internal revolution channeling the spirits of Jim Morrison, Aldous Huxley and William Blake. Poetic and rock-n-roll, the
collection is fueled by a quest for knowledge and heightened consciousness.

You’ll see hand-screened prints designed to connect with the natural world through wood and fur inspired prints created by artist Sam Dakota. Dresses and gowns, jacket and capes, as well as separates come in bold silhouettes in rich velvets and wools to add depth the the collection.

Learn more about the label at Suzanne Rae and rsvp to

Suzanne Rae Fall/Winter 2012 Preview
August 22 from 7-9pm
Steven Alan
140 10th Avenue, NYC
(between 18th & 19th)

Behind the Scenes With Between The Sheets

Layla L’obatti, Arden Leigh and Treacle Tart from the Lingerie Addict

This week we had a chance to meet up with Between The Sheets, an effortlessly sensual and no doubt comfortable line of lingerie that’s Made in New York during their market week. We got a preview of their spring/summer 2013 collection, sat in on an editor appointment and learned more about the label.

Here are some fun facts about the brand and their new collection:

  • Between The Sheets began as a fashion show event that Layla L’obatti founded while she was a sophomore specializing in intimates at FIT. The show ran for three years and was covered in Women’s Wear Daily and drew an audience close to 1000 people during its final season.
  •  Every Between The Sheets collection uses some sort of clever combination of the word play (e.g. Airplay, Venus in Play) and is stamped on their label. Spring 2013 is all about shades of heather grey, ambrosia, and olympian blue in draped jersey knits that are soft, easy and are perfect to lounge in.
  •  Their premium line, Layla L’obatti for Between The Sheets uses silk rolls, lace folds and velvet bows for their Arabesque collection. You’ll see delicate bralettes and tap pants, gorgeous robes and surprising versatile stretch velvet garters (you can wear it as a belt too) that will make you want a new wardrobe!
  • Both of their collections are made in two separate facilities in NYC, one that specializes in cut and sew knitwear and one in silks. The sewers and workers at each of these facilities are highly specialized in their handling of these specific materials.
  • Each piece of lace in their Arabesque collection is meticulously hand cut. The tap pant & gown has six pieces and the wrap robe has eight that need to be cut to exact angles for each size in order to fit on the body of the garment. These pieces are then stitched together with zero tolerance because they have to form a perfect miter, then appliquéd to the silk, and finally the silk behind is cut away to create the cut-out design. They hand cut hundreds of pieces of lace between our fall/spring production of these styles.
Learn more about the brand at Between The Sheets.

Spring/Summer 2013 Preview: Recollection by Sandra Murphy

We had a chance to catch up with Sandra Murphy, one of our Design Entrepreneurs NYC participants to learn more about her brand and what’s new for her spring/summer 2013 collection. Here’s there scoop on what’s ahead:

Can you tells us about your spring 2013 collection?
For spring 2013, I’m taking another look back at mid-twentieth century fashion and modernizing it for today’s consumer who appreciates ladylike dressing.

What’s new for the season?
New this season is my first eveningwear look which was inspired by a 1940s nightgown and it’s really special.

What colors, fabrics and silhouettes did you use?
I love color and it’s always key in each of my collections. This time I took inspiration from great spring and summer foods like avocado greens, yellows and cantaloupe orange. I design all my own prints and introduced two new printed fabrics this season, a fun picnic inspired conversational piece and a sunset inspired abstract.

What are some of your signatures?
My signature piece in each collection is a shirtdress. It’s a style sure to be found in every woman’s closet during the 1940s & ’50s. I think a great shirtdress should also be in every woman’s closet today!

This looks like a fun shoot! Where did it take place?
My lookbook was photographed at a beautiful house in Westchester. It was fantastic! Everything was in bloom and the colors and surroundings were the perfect backdrop for my collection. Additional behind the scenes photos can be seen on Instagram and I’ll soon debut a behind the scenes video on Facebook.

Which trade shows will you be at?
I’ve been selected to show at MAGIC this month as part of their Launch Pad program for emerging designers which I’m very excited about. I’m also hoping to show with some of my fellow Design Entrepreneurs NYC classmates at a New York tradeshow next month.

You can learn more about the line at Recollection by Sandra Murphy and connect with her on Twitter.