This is a how a casual, un-tucked shirt needs to look.
A Startup Incubator for… Fashion Designers?
Another Fashion Week just wrapped up in New York City, but the real future of fashion was not necessarily happening on runways shimmering under the flash bulbs at Lincoln Center. In all business ecosystems, power and hierarchy tend to suppress the most interesting innovations. And so it is in the fashion business, too. When a nod or a grimace from the editor of Vogueis enough to make or break a new designer, you know the ecosystem is not functioning all that efficiently for everyone.
Thus, I am fascinated by how an emerging company—Nolcha Fashion Week—has become a hot incubator of new fashion design talent. Think of it as the “other” fashion week. It’s the equivalent of being off-Broadway (or even off-off-Broadway), a place where the cool, unexpected stuff is allowed to sprout and grow, away from the traditional gatekeepers.
On Thursday, I caught up with Nolcha’s co-founder and CEO Kerry Bannigan, in the center of a swirl of activity at the Fashion Lounge they had set up in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. At this location, Nolcha was providing some of their independent designers private rooms to meet with potential buyers, the day after their runway show. According to Bannigan, when she moved from England to America, she was surprised at how promising designers often failed not because of their inability to design great clothes, but because they lacked the knowledge and expertise to grow their businesses. She started Nolcha about six years ago to address this gap.
And the results have been powerful. This fall, they showcased over 20 designers on their platform. They have received sponsorship from several top brands in the industry, including hair products maker RUSK. Their designers have seen significant growth in customers and market attention.
In the course of my conversations with Bannigan and others, what struck me were the similarities between the startup worlds of fashion and technology. Although the ecosystem of Silicon Valley seems worlds away from the designer runways (which is obvious when you see how people in the Valley dress sometimes), the needs of emerging startups in both of these ecosystems are incredibly similar. Startups everywhere face similar challenges: they need access to business expertise, sales channels, powerful relationships, capital, brand validation, and sympathetic partners who believe and are willing to stick their necks out and take a chance on them. You might have the greatest design or invention in the world, but that doesn’t guarantee that anyone will know or care about it.
That gap is exactly where they try to help. As Bannigan explains, “Maintaining strong, open relationships with industry, brands and advertisers has been extremely influential in our firm.” Nolcha builds relationships with designers characterized by honesty and ability “to understand each designer’s creativity, personality and brand vision.”
According to Arthur Mandel, the other co-founder and President of Nolcha, they give small designers a powerful platform that might otherwise cost over $100,000 at the “big show” at Lincoln Center, they elevate these brands to high visibility, they give them business support, and they sometimes even take equity stakes in their designers. Obviously, they look for designers who do fantastic work, but just as importantly, they look for people who also can communicate persuasively to customers, media, and other important players and tell an exciting narrative.
What lessons can we learn about business ecosystems from Nolcha’s story? For emerging designers, Nolcha serves as a keystone, a social role described in our book, The Rainforest. Similar to keystone species in natural ecosystems–like bees and hummingbirds–business keystones create value in the overall system by breaking down barriers, thus connecting disparate parties together who otherwise wouldn’t connect on their own. In the fashion business, where the whims of elites often dictate who gets attention, this matters a lot.
Economic systems thrive when little firms with better ideas can take on giants based on merit, instead of waiting for blessing from powers on high. Hierarchy and elitism are destructive forces when it comes to the emergence of innovative ideas. That’s one of the reasons that Silicon Valley has thrived: the “horizontal” structure of the ecosystem means that there is nothing odd about a successful veteran chatting with a bright-eyed newcomer over pancakes at Buck’s, or another of the local watering holes. In most realms of business, that dynamic style of mixing and mingling regardless of social hierarchy rarely happens. Thus, Nolcha occupies the same role in the fashion ecosystem that a well-connected venture capitalist or startup mentor does in the Silicon Valley ecosystem.
As people like to say, Silicon Valley is a mindset, not a place. The under-appreciated gift that Silicon Valley provides the world is a way of looking at how humans organize themselves socially to bring new ideas to life. And that framework can be applied across all fields of human endeavor, including fashion. Fortunately, mindsets do not have to recognize any borders.
story by Victor W. Hwang,
finished making my studded Shirt
The Afri Gaga Dress by Charlene Amankwah
The Snapp Drink experience
Snapp has come into the market to give the sassy, outgoing and sophisticated woman a drink that she can comfortably enjoy on a night out and one that reflects who she is.
Welcome to the new face of alcohol advertising, Women are the target and they’re big business currently this is because they are a major untapped market both in Kenya and the region.
By now am sure most of you have seen the Snapp Drink television ad run on your screen a couple of times especially during the Miss world Kenya 2012 competition period. Their sponsorship of miss world was to emphasize this lifestyle that involves beauty, fashion, class and a go-getter attitude and the Ad tells it all, you can see how the Snapp sisters Arrive on the Red-carpet, very classy in the Limousine and they are treated like royalty, the paparazzi taking their pictures and all these body guards pushing away the excited Crowd. When they make their entrance, you see how they have attitude and their presence is felt in the crowd. Snapp is a drink for the Divas!!
I had My Snapp experience during the Miss world Gala and boy was it good!! offering a delicate blend of apple infused with natural fruit flavours to compliment each taste, Snapp creates a unique flavour that will appeal to primarily women of all ages.
in a beautiful 300ml clear glass bottle Snapp should be enjoyed served chill in a large sort of champaigne glass and is perfectly suited to be enjoyed for different occasions at home or out and about.
The First Lady of Ekiti State, Her Excellency Chief Mrs. Erelu Bisi Fayemi Named as Africa Fashion Week London Patron
Africa Fashion Week London is proud to announce that Her Excellency, Chief Mrs. Erelu Bisi Fayemi, the First Lady of Ekiti State in Nigeria has pledged her support to AFWL as a patron. As well as lending her name to the event, Chief Mrs. Fayemi will also be attending the second edition of AFWL scheduled for 3-4 August 2012 at London Spitalfields.
Chief Mrs. Fayemi is the former Executive Director of London-based NGO Akina Mama Wa Afrika (AMwA), co-founder and president of African Women’s Development Fund, (AWDF) - the first Africa-wide, grant-making fund, which supports the work of organisations promoting women’s rights in Africa and has since supported over 800 women’s organisations in 42 African countries with over U$16m in grants. She is recognised globally for her work with African women. As well as receiving numerous awards and honours for her work; in April 2009, Chief Mrs. Fayemi was named by New African Magazine as one of the 20 most influential African women on the continent.
As the wife of the Governor of Ekiti State where she continues to to pioneer a range of community development projects with her Ekiti Development Foundation, Chief Mrs. Fayemi also continues to lend her support to motivate and encourage positive initiatives led by African women, and as part this, she has taken a keen interest in Ronke Ademiluyi’s brainchild Africa Fashion Week London, pledging her support for the event.
“Chief Mrs. Fayemi has chaired a number of NGOs and worked with Comic Relief, so as well as being a friend of AFWL, she is someone who understands the challenges of funding for fashion designers. It is therefore a pleasure to have her as the patron of Africa Fashion Week which aims to create a platform and new opportunities for up and coming designers,” said Ronke Ademiluyi, the founder and CEO of Africa Fashion Week London.
With a brand new venue, London’s hip Spitalfields Market which is expected to attract over 20,000 visitors at the height of the Olympic summer, over 60 designers showcasing and exhibiting over two days including stellar names of African fashion such as Adebayo Jones and Anita Quansah, high profile partners such as Mizani and MoneyGram, and Her Excellency, Chief Mrs. Erelu Bisi Fayemi as a patron, Africa Fashion Week London is set to be the hottest fashion extravaganza of the season.
Purchase your tickets on www.africafashionweeklondon.com
Ticket packages include:
• Basic (free) - access to the show and exhibition
• Shoppers delight package (£7.00) - access to the show and exhibition + 10% discount on all purchases made on the day + AFWL magazine
• VIP (£50.00) - access to the show and exhibition + access to the VIP lounge + welcome drink + 10% discount on all purchases made on the day + AFWL magazine
For more information about Africa Fashion Week London please visit www.africafashionweeklondonweek.com
CASTING CALL for AFWL ENDS ON 14 JUNE
Africa Fashion Week London 2012 are looking for male and female models for this year’s edition of AFWL scheduled for Friday and Saturday 3rd-4th August atLondon’s Spitalfields Market.
Following the positive reception for last year’s event which attracted over 4000 visitors over two days, now at London’s Spitalfields, the two-day event will see 50 international designers of African descent showcasing and exhibiting their work is set to attract 10,000 visitors each day and be the biggest fashion extravaganza to add pizzazz and style to the summer of Olympics.
We are looking for male and female models for the AFWL fashion shows to take place over two days.
Models will need to be available all day; compensation available and diverse media coverage guaranteed via broadcast and print.
CASTING INFORMATION: Please read carefully to ensure you comply by these instructions:
- full current statistics,
- a contact number
- three recent images
- confirmation you are available for fittings a week prior to the event, all day Friday and Saturday, 3rd and 4th,
- AND for a brief casting on Sunday 17 June 2012 between 10am to 6pm at a London location to be confirmed.
Please do not reply below ‘interested’ or ‘please check profile if suitable’; only email responses will be considered.
Please check out AFWL website if you are not already aware of them;
CASTING CALL ENDS ON 14 JUNE