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NYCEDC And FIT Announce Winners of Design Entrepreneurs NYC Class of 2014

New York City-Based Emerging Fashion Designers Awarded Total of $35,000 to Develop Their Businesses

Fashion Designers Received Free, Intensive Training on Best Business Practices

New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) announces the winners of the 2014 class of Design Entrepreneurs NYC, a free, intensive, “mini-MBA” program that educates emerging New York City-based fashion designers on how to run a successful label. Design Entrepreneur courses focus on marketing, public relations, operations, and financial management specifically within the fashion industry, allowing participating designers to grow their companies in New York City. The program, envisioned by NYCEDC as part of its suite of efforts to support the City’s fashion industry, is housed at and operated by FIT.  The grand prize of $25,000 was awarded to Bita and Rouzita Vahhabaghai of ITA, a luxury handbag line featuring an innovative patent-pending material.  The second place prize of $10,000 was awarded to Rebecca Szymczak of BEX NYC, a luxury intimates brand. The 2014 culmination event featured business plan presentations by 12 program participants to industry executives, with the winning and second place business plans receiving $25,000 and $10,000 respectively to implement their plans. Funding for these awards is provided by G-III Apparel Group.

“Design Entrepreneurs aims to ensure that up-and-coming fashion designers develop the business skills they need to succeed, complementing their creative talent,” said NYCEDC President Kyle Kimball. “By ensuring the strength of the next generation of designers, we are also shoring up the future of the City’s fashion sector, which provides nearly 200,000 jobs and is recognized as an iconic New York City industry. We congratulate the winners and look forward to witnessing their success.”

 “FIT is proud to partner with the NYCEDC for the third year of this innovative program,” said Dr. Joyce F. Brown, President of FIT.  “We are particularly grateful to G-III for continuing to enhance the program with a generous gift that benefits the participants and for the company’s day-to-day support of this effort.  Because FIT offers career-oriented education on both the design and business sides of the fashion industry, the college is an ideal environment in which to host Design Entrepreneurs NYC —an initiative to ensure that New York City remains the fashion capital of the world.  Design Entrepreneurs gives our City’s creative talent the tools that allow them to flourish.”    

Design Entrepreneurs’ intensive instruction took place on three weekends during the summer at FIT. Led by FIT faculty and other industry professionals, the curriculum focused on marketing, operations, and financial management. After the conclusion of the instruction, participants formalized individual business plans with the assistance of mentors. Participants also had free access to FIT resources, including workshops, personal tours of The Museum at FIT, and lectures by iconic fashion figures.  

Among the distinguished industry executives who served on Thursday’s judging panel were Pamela Baxter, President/CEO Perfumes and Cosmetics of LVMH and President of Christian Dior Couture; Timothy Baxter, Executive Vice President, GMM RTW, Macy’s; Robin Burns-McNeill, Chairman, Co-Founder, Batallure Beauty, LLC; Marshall Cheek, Vice President Global Licensing and New Business for Kate Spade; Morris Goldfarb, CEO of G-III Apparel Group; Renee Hunter, Founder and President of Sequoyah; Laurence Leeds, Chairman of Buckingham Capital Management; Deirdre Quinn, CEO of Lafayette 148; Ellen Rodriguez, CEO of Lela Rose; and Michael Stanley, Managing Director and Head of Factoring Division for Rosenthal & Rosenthal Inc.    

Originally launched in 2012, Design Entrepreneurs has proven successful in creating jobs and opportunities around New York City. Many of the 104 alumni have grown their businesses and achieved success after participating in the program, including 2013 grand prize winner Becca McCharen of Chromat, who earned a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and participated in MADE Fashion Week, showing her fall 2014 line.    

Design Entrepreneurs NYC’s class of 2014 concludes weeks after Mayor de Blasio marked the beginning of Fashion Week by announcing the creation or advancement of three City initiatives that support the City's $98 billion fashion industry and its homegrown businesses. Beginning this winter, the City's Made In NY designation will be expanded to include local fashion designers and manufacturers, highlighting the sector's thriving network of local talent. Mayor de Blasio also announced the inaugural recipients of the NYC Fashion Production Fund, a brand-new $2 million public-private fund designed to advance the growth of emerging New York City designers by offering loans ranging from $50,000 to $300,000 toward the fulfillment of existing purchase orders. Finally, the Mayor announced the NYC Capsule Collection, a program that will select New York City-based designers to create a small collection of items that are subsequently produced by City-based manufacturers and sold through local retailers.


New York City Economic Development Corporation is the City's primary vehicle for promoting economic growth in each of the five boroughs. NYCEDC's mission is to stimulate growth through expansion and redevelopment programs that encourage investment, generate prosperity and strengthen the City's competitive position. NYCEDC serves as an advocate to the business community by building relationships with companies that allow them to take advantage of New York City's many opportunities. Find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, or visit our blog to learn more about NYCEDC projects and initiatives.

About FIT  

The Fashion Institute of Technology, a part of the State University of New York, has been a leader in career education in art, design, business, and technology for nearly 70 years. With a curriculum that provides a singular blend of hands-on, practical experience, classroom study, and a firm grounding in the liberal arts, FIT offers a wide range of outstanding programs that are affordable and relevant to today’s rapidly changing industries. Internationally renowned, FIT draws on its New York City location to provide a vibrant, creative community in which to learn. The college offers more than 45 majors and grants AAS, BFA, BS, MA, MFA, and MPS degrees, preparing students for professional success and leadership in the global marketplace. Notable alumni include Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Nanette Lepore, Amsale Aberra, Reem Acra, Nina Garcia, Francisco Costa, Joe Zee, Brian Atwood, Ralph Rucci, Michelle Smith, Andrew Fezza, Dennis Basso, Norma Kamali, John Bartlett, Stephen Burrows, Daniel Vosovic, Victor Alfaro, Jhane Barnes, Miranda Morrison, Kari Sigerson, and Rebecca Moses. Visit


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Contact Info

Kate Blumm/Ian Fried, NYCEDC

(212) 312-3523