The fashion world may look glamorous from the outside, but as anyone who’s watched Project Runway or All on the Line knows, being a designer is far from easy. In addition to creating the actual collection, you also need the resources to show it, produce it, publicize it, and deliver it to stores – and then do it all over again (and again…and again) every three to six months. Whew.
The fashion cycle is tough enough for big-name designers with major corporate backing – it’s even harder for emerging talents who are working on a shoestring budget with little to no outside help.
Which is where W Hotels’ Fashion Next comes in. Launched three years ago, the Fashion Next program was created to discover and support young designers by sponsoring their New York Fashion Week presentations.
This season, W Hotels announced the program’s new Global Fashion Director, Jenne Lombardo (the pint-sized dynamo behind MAC + Milk and The Terminal Presents). Jenne and the Fashion Next roster of talented newcomers – Bibhu Mohapatra, Electric Feathers, Michael Angel, Nomia, Juan Carlos Obando, and Rochambeau – were introduced at a New York Fashion Week breakfast at the W on Lexington Avenue, followed a few nights later by a group showcase in The Courtyard at Lincoln Center, with the designer’s individual presentations taking place at The Box at Lincoln Center.
But unlike years past, Fashion Next’s relationship with the designers doesn’t end once the shows are over. “It’s a partnership, and they nurture not only from the show perspective but from a business perspective,” Juan Carlos Obando said, citing the global trunk shows the hotel is helping to arrange as an example of their commitment to the cause. “They understand what young designers go through and there are certain elements that young designers do need help with and that goes beyond show sponsorship, because sponsorship is a one-off element. They offer a mentorship, which is a year-long process with the support of the people in their PR team, their business team – there are so many groups in the W Hotels’ network and they are thoroughly willing to give you advice. It’s pretty amazing.”
Jenne, herself a longtime supporter of emerging talent, was equally enthusiastic about the partnership. “I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life,” the chic mother of three said at the breakfast. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to express how excited I am about my relationship with the W because they’re a brand that really puts their money where their mouth is. They’re able to support an industry that has the talent, but maybe not the voice and the platform and the infrastructure. To be able to have a brand like W help really push this talent to the next level – this is what keeps New York thriving, and they’re directly contributing to the overall eco-system, if you will.”
This season, Fashion Next not only provided space for the designers’ Spring 2012 presentations, they also helped to underwrite the cost of the actual production, including hair, makeup, and music. “But the biggest part of what we’re doing is really working with each designer and custom tailoring a program to fit each of the designer’s and the hotels’ needs on a global scale,” added Jenne. “So there may be a designer who’s in New York that has no presence in Asia and we’ll be able to contribute to that. It’s really exciting for me to know that by way of this program we’re impacting the future of these designers.”
Exciting and inspiring – just like the designers themselves.
Lauren David Peden writes for Rue La La as a Contributing Editor.