Success Stories

CFDA Fashion Incubator

" The CFDA Fashion Incubator has afforded us another way to provide significant and meaningful support to emerging fashion designers.”

Lisa Smilor, Associate Executive Director, CFDA

Business Need

New York City has long been the place where fashion entrepreneurs started and grew their businesses into large successful companies, including Calvin Klein, Polo, Diane von Furstenberg, and Donna Karan. The City is working to ensure it remains a hotbed of new ideas to continue this growth and leadership.

In a recent study of the City’s fashion industry, NYCEDC found that helping emerging designers enter and thrive in the fashion industry was a key opportunity for both the industry and New York City. However, new entrepreneurs face a number of hurdles, including navigating complexities of the industry, creating a solid business plan, and finding affordable space.


In order to address the challenges of starting a fashion business, NYCEDC decided to develop a new incubator to support entrepreneurship, encourage emerging designer talent to locate their companies in New York, and strengthen the City’s competitive position in the global fashion industry. This idea led NYCEDC to the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), a trade association for the U.S. fashion industry, whose members consist of more than 350 of America’s foremost womenswear, menswear, jewelry, and accessory designers. The notion of an incubator to support the next generation of fashion leaders in New York City was a natural extension of the CFDA’s existing development programs.

In fall 2009, CFDA submitted a proposal to NYCEDC in response to an RFP to operate a fashion incubator. The incubator would offer low-cost design studio space to up to 12 designers and provide a creative, professional environment to foster promising talent in the field of fashion. CFDA would also provide business mentoring, educational seminars, and networking opportunities to the selected designers during their two-year leases.

Eric Gural, executive managing director of Newmark Knight Frank and the building’s owner, built out the roughly 10,000-square-foot space on 209 West 38th Street into fashion studios and workspaces designed by Kliment Halsband Architects based on designer input. Newmark Holdings is providing incubator tenants with below-market rents for each unit, starting at $1,500 per month. NYCEDC additionally provided CFDA with a three-year, $200,000 grant to establish the NYC Fashion Incubator to help young designers launch their labels.

As part of NYCEDC’s commitment to the fashion industry, the incubator was established in the City’s Garment Center providing emerging designers with direct access to thousands of wholesale buyers and to support services that are essential to the design process. At the same time, the initiative aims to establish successful new brands that will employ local factories and create vital jobs at factories located in the area.

In January 2010, a selection committee and advisory board of fashion industry experts selected the first 12 designers to move into the CFDA Fashion Incubator. And in May 2010, NYCEDC President Seth Pinsky, CFDA President Diane Von Furstenberg, and Eric Gural commemorated the opening of the fashion incubator with a walk-through of the space, joined by the 12 designers. Today the incubator is home to the new New York City fashion up-and-comers.  Learn more about the designers.

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