Although we awarded prizes to the winners of the Design Entrepreneurs NYC program weeks ago, I am still feeling the afterglow. This is the summertime program FIT inaugurated four years ago in collaboration with the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to help emerging designers devise the strategies that allow their businesses to thrive. It is a kind of business boot camp—and an intensive one at that—one that draws some of the city’s most promising designers as well as a cadre of elite business leaders who act as mentors and judges. While all participants benefit from this program, two are selected at the end to receive cash prizes—and each year, I am delighted to say, we are able to offer more.
Our major supporter since the beginning has been GIII and its generous and far-sighted CEO Morris Goldfarb who this year helped us to raise a total of $150,000 for prize money. The EDC increased its contribution as well this year which allowed us to enrich the programming. Jeanette Nostra, former president of GIII, has been the dynamic “executive in residence” for the program from the beginning and has provided brilliant leadership.
It is gratifying to know that this program has already helped more than 100 businesses grow and thrive. These designers have shown their lines in New York and Paris fashion weeks, won important industry prizes or “best in show” recognition, and gained high profile press as well as celebrity clients. One was invited to create a line for The GAP; another was named design consultant to a major industry event production company, and yet another now has a Cadillac collaboration. Four were among this year’s10 CFDA/ Vogue Fashion Fund finalists—and one has sold her line of lingerie to a large company while remaining its creative director. All of them remain New York City stalwarts—contributing to the future of the New York creative industry.
This year’s top prize winner was the Brooklyn-based menswear brand CADET, cofounded by Brad Schmidt and FIT alumnus Raul Arevalo. They received $100,000 to invest in their company. The husband-wife team Haus Alkire were awarded the second place $50,000 Israel Goldgrub Award for their luxury women’s wear company. The award is named for the father of YM, Inc president, Michael Gold, who not only provided the gift but also acted as a judge. Prize money for the top winners has grown significantly since the program’s inception thanks to the industry’s faith in and commitment to DENYC. It’s a great program, and I look forward eagerly to celebrating its fifth anniversary next year.