W Hotels Partners with CFDA Fashion Incubator
Social Lifestyle recently visited a fashion showcase in Los Angeles, CA. this past week. However, this wasn’t just any showcase.
This showcase in particular, was created by the . It featured 5 designers who were chosen from hundreds of qualified candidates to be a part of the Incubator Program, a program that granted 10 lucky designers opportunities that young emerging designers in today’s day & age could only DREAM of. We had the honor of speaking to each and every one of them as well as their official mentor, Celebrity Image Architect, Law Roach. We also had the pleasure of speaking with the Global Brand Marketing Director of the W Hotels, Pablo Henderson. Every one let us in on their personal experiences while being a part of the Incubator Program, their overall brand development, evolution, and they even gave us a sneak peak into what’s to come in the near future.
Designer: Daniel Dugoff
Looking to create “unbasic-basics” Daniel Dugoff’s collections of carefully constructed clothes incorporate fine fabrics but avoid being too delicate so they coincide with how one moves and lives in their everyday lives. DDUGOFF is currently sold in the US, Canada, and Japan.
Q: How has your experience been while being apart of W Hotel + CFDA Incubator Program?
A: So the CFDA Incubator Program is underwritten by W hotels and its an incredible partnership because it gives the 10 brands in the Incubator access to travel in a way that small brands never have. So they give us the opportunity to travel internationally for a week long Inspiration trip and then also to do a domestic business activation and then also to do a showcase. So there’s some amazing travel that not only forms the collections but also helps build business and introduce us to publications and stylists and stores around the world.
Q: Nice and what’s the application process like for the CFDA Incubator Program?
A: Yeah its a similar process to applying for the Vogue Fashion Fund through the CFDA. You have to build a portfolio book and you have to give all this financial information about how your company has done since you’ve been in business and they’re looking for key accounts that you’re working with and like a whole range of things. Then you hand all that in and then something happens in a couple of months, or like a number of months later and then you… FIND OUT (laughs).
Q: So what was your reaction when you found out that you made the cut?
A: It was incredible because it meant that this project that I’ve been toying around with on my own for YEARS has been recognized by somebody else that sees it of value and are wiling to prepare to sort of stamp it with “we’re going to support this guy”.
Q: Where did you go for your Inspiration Trip?
A: I went to Taiwan last December. Then that trip kind of helped laid the groundwork for the inspiration for the spring ’18 collection, which is what I’m showing here today.
Q: What kind of inspiration did you draw specifically from Taiwan?
A: There was incredible colors and textures in the city. It was really amazing because it was industrialized and became post-industrial really quickly. There was this moment when we were driving out of the city into a national park that was like RIGHT next to the city and we were going up this steep mountain road and we were driving through the clouds and we had like tropical forests around us and they kind of disappeared into this fog and that became the inspiration for like all of these prints! (points to examples from his collection).
Q: What kind of fabric were you originally drawn to when designing this collection?
A: One of the first fabrics that I was obsessed with and that I just HAD to use was this cotton that has little lurex threads in it because it’s shiny but it’s still totally wearable for a guy that works in an office and it’s not too ‘showy’. That’s what I’m always thinking about it. It’s like, can my friends who like work at tech companies wear this to work? If all of they’re friends are wearing mall brands, are they still going to fit in or are they going to look like the crazy person? It’s like teetering that line of whats beautiful and amazing but also ‘what can he wear everyday’? I don’t want these to be like “special occasion shirts”.
Q: What’s next for you, after this?
A: I’ve been thinking a lot about HOW i’ve been selling the collection recently and I think its way more exciting for the customer to learn about something new and see it right away. So I’ve been thinking about how, for my collection, I haven’t quite figured out what form it’s going to take but I’ve been thinking a lot more about doing smaller projects and doing a bunch of projects in a year and releasing those through online and Instagram. I did a collaboration with a women’s designer this summer and we didn’t sell it any stores. We just sold it online and did SO well and it was so much easier than trying to wrangle stores to come and see the collection. So it was just like maybe this is what I should be doing or at least, PART of what I should be doing. So moving into the next year I’ve been thinking a lot about do I present it as a full collection or do I tell a story that’s like 6 pieces and then a couple months later tell a a new story that’s a different story. Thats the fun part about fashion. You can play around with the strategy.
Designer: Alexandria Alvarez
In 2014 Alexandria Alvarez of Alix founded an entire brand around bodysuits, after realizing the void in the material in market for cool, contemporary options. Her brand is currently carried in Net-A-Porter, Shopbop, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Harvey Nichols.
Q: How has your experience been while being apart of the W Hotel + CFDA Incubator Program?
A: My experience with the W Hotel + CFDA Incubator Program has been really incredible in a sense that, they’ve given me opportunities that I wouldn’t necessarily have as a young designer. From a business activation in Miami during Swim Week to an inspiration trip in Thailand, to showcasing now in LA you know? These are things that I can’t do on my own. I cant afford to do because I don’t have the privilege. So I think that that’s been the most impactful thing about having the W Hotel + CFDA Incubator Program behind us and having this experience.
Q: You mentioned your trip to Thailand, did you draw inspiration from that trip for your current collection?
A: It’s an upcoming process. I went there at a point where I already had to create the new swim season so the season that I drew inspiration from isn’t out. It’s still a work in progress. I definitely drew inspiration from it though.
Q: Im sure. I mean, how could you not? Its THAILAND, it was a beautiful place right?
A: Yeah! Just the colors and everything about it…I just cant even BEGIN to get into it. It’s kind of crazy because they were just showing the video of me there that they shot and I’m like in a bathing suit the whole time so Im just like man can you take me back (laughing)? But yeah I DEFINITELY drew inspiration from there.
Q: Nice. How has your business evolved? You started it in 2014 and it’s been almost 4 years since then, so how would you say it’s evolved and what are you’re immediate goals?
A: I’ve always been the type to maintain the aspect of ‘baby steps’. So I try to really not try to get too ahead of myself for creating such big goals. I think that a really big opportunity and step for that felt like a stepping stone was really to be accepted into the CFDA Incubator Program because I really had no clue. It just happened in a way that was so organic. So I felt like that was a big step and I’m definitely trying to evolve my business and see what the next big step is with the body suit because I feel like I want to grow the business but I’m also a very strong believer in doing something that’s very organic and real and I don’t like to do anything that doesn’t come from my heart so I actually feel like I need to get off the business aspect of it all right now and get back into the creative aspect of it so that I can evolve it in a way that transitions really well and smart and has all of the balances. Just like when I came up with the bodysuit, I knew that there was a HUGE void in the market.
Q: The designs of these bodysuits have such a flare. Did you START with bodysuits?
A: Yes (laughing). My main goal was BODYSUITS. I came in HARD. It was after I graduated and long story short I was really good at bottoms, and surprisingly NOT tops. And I’m very basic at the top SOOO I had to style my bottoms.
Q: Wow so how did you get into designing an entire collection around tops then?
A: Because when I was styling for my portfolio I realized that I couldn’t put everything with a t-shirt and when I went to look for bodysuits they were all very um…outdated.
Q: So what’s next? I know you said you’re very into ‘baby steps’, but have you been thinking about what you want to do next as a designer?
A: I have been thinking about it but I can’t tell you that I’ve pinpointed it. The pressure is definitely there. I do swimwear and I really see an opportunity in growing my resort-wear in the swimwear category and I think the one question for me is how do I expand my contemporary ready-to-wear line that isn’t so difficult, competitive wise, because there’s already a lot out there right now. So I think a big question to really focus on is what makes you different and what’s missing in the market? So that’s what I’m trying to figure out. I can’t say I know the answer yet though (laughs).
Designer: Molly Yesdadt
Brand: Yesdadt Millinery
Launched in 2009, Molly has worked to redefine the role of hats in the luxury accessories market. Her line includes uniquely woven straw hats and has been developed exclusive collaborations with The Row, Public School New York, Creature of the Wild and more. The brand is sold in cutting edge stores including Opening Ceremony Japan and Isetan, alongside retailers including Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, and Anthropologie, as well.
Q: How has your experience been while being apart of W Hotel + CFDA Incubator Program?
A: It’s the reason why we’re here in L.A. I’m originally from New York so, being based in New York, we have a presence in New York. So to be here in L.A. with the W Hotel and the CFDA opens up a lot of different opportunities here on the west coast that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Q: After speaking with the previous designers, I was informed that you all have been on some pretty cool Inspiration trips. Where did you go for your Inspiration Trip in particular?
A: We did a showcase in New Orleans during Jazz Fest.
Q: Very nice. Did you draw inspiration for this collection from your trip to New Orleans?
A: No, only because the spring hats for us are about travel. It’s about having fun, it’s about movement. The straw hats provide some protection, it’s easy to travel with, it’s like we’re selling in locations where people shop in an experiential way. So that’s a big component to the spring inspiration in the spring collection. There’s a lot of information and a lot of special elements in each piece, and it all small production runs, handcrafted, and a lot of attention to detail. It’s special. It’s what makes an accessory and what makes our hats awesome.
Q: How long does it take to produce the average hat?
A: Some of the straws can take a day to weave. We work with a community in Haiti which is a really special artisan community and some of the straws takes a day or two to weave so it depends on how fine the straw is. There’s a lot care that goes into it.
Q: How has your business evolved since 2009?
A: I think the collection is smarter, cleaner, and we’re trying to be more responsive to our customers and tell a consistent story.
Q: What d o you see in your near future for w hat’s next to come?
A: We’re launching our first straw handbag for spring!
Designer: Katie deGuzman
K/LLER is a recycled brass and sterling silver jewelry line created by Katie deGuzman and Michael Miller. The collection of rouch metals delicately cast over skeletal organic material and is gritty yet sleek, hard yet soft, dark yet sweet, but overall timeless. Most of the jewelry is constructed from 100% recycled metal and the by-products are sourced from the farming industry. The brand has been sold in Helmut Lang international flagship stores, Barney’s CO-OP stores and is carried in more than 60 stores worldwide.
Q: How has your experience been while being apart of W Hotel + CFDA Incubator Program?
A: They’ve been the most amazing. In 2014 we won the CFDA Lexus Eco Fashion Challenge so that was our first instance in working with the CFDA and there we met Lisa Smilor who I think is my fairy God Mother. She’s the Vice President of the CFDA and there she was like like “APPLY FOR INCUBATOR”. So we did and obviously we got in and that was amazing for us.
Q: What was your reaction when you found out you made it? The cream of the crop.
A: It was like ‘Shit we have to move!’, because we were in downtown Brooklyn. But seriously we were so excited and honored. It was like going into business school. We had classes and we got to really analyze our business and streamline the company because obviously I’m a designer but theres just so much more to it than just design. Design is just a small part of what I do. The mentorships have been amazing, working with W Hotel has been absolutely incredible. In July we had our inspiration trip and went to Bogota, Colombia which was incredible as well.
Q: Can you tell me more about Bogota? Were any of your pieces inspired by that trip?
A: Yeah, we have some pieces that were inspired by that trip for sure. We went to Bogota because it’s the capitol of gold! I love latin cultures so that was really amazing and we had such an amazing time. They took us to some of the most amazing places. I really loved seeing how things are made and what’s the story behind them. We didn’t just see jewelry but we also got to see leather makers, weaving, and we went to the gold museum and that was INCREDIBLE.
Q: Nice. So How do you think you’re brand has evolved in the 7 years that its been in business since you launched it in 2010?
A: Definitely understanding our customer more. It’s become more streamlined and I think in this collection, especially too, the pieces are a lot lighter. So letting each piece make sure that they can speak on it’s own.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: Aside from currently being with child, Continuing to streamline the collection, more travel, doing more personal appearances, and talking product knowledge. Really want to partner with our wholesale accounts more, boosting our online and social media presence as well. I’m such a hands on person so I really want to focus on having those hands on interactions. I’d like to work more on telling women empowerment stories. I’ve had women tell me that some of the pieces I’ve created make them feel powerful and sometimes in the fashion industry you’re like how is this helping anybody. There’s so much going on in the world so how is this necklace going to change anything, but when you hear stories like that of people saying ‘I have to wear this when i go on my interviews’ or ‘I’m having a tough day and this brings me confidence’. So making sure that any story that I’m telling is a good one and just making sure that there’s purpose behind it all.
Designer: Tim and Dan Joo
Haerfest is a series of modest bags for the modern professional designed by NY based design duo, brothers TIm and Dan Joo. It is their combined philosophy that good design can lead to a greater and smarter work-life balance. The brand is currently available for purchase online with luxe accessories designed for both men and women.
Q: So Dan, you’re in partnership with your brother, what’s the age difference?
A: DAN: Tim is 3 years older, but I feel like I’m 3 years wiser. I joke a lot about that because we have a great dynamic. I mean the fact of the matter is that we really understand each other but at the same time we compliment each other’s strengths. Where he’s strong in certain areas, I can kind of pick up in others. Tim and I lived together and worked together for a period of time so it gets hard but when you work with someone that you can trust it’s like you can’t take that away.
Q: Tell me a little about your partnership with the W hotels and the CFDA.
A: DAN: The program that we’re in with the CFDA is called the CFDA Incubator. It’s a business development program thats for 2 years and really what it was created for is to foster young designers. They provide valuable mentorships, workshops, and to kind of get our grasps on the industry today. And the reason why I say today, is because it’s not like it was yesterday or one year ago or two years ago. Retail is changing, manufacturing is changing, and all very quickly. So to have the right networks and to work with the right people, that will give us the ability to really strive in this industry today.
Q: Do you guys have a business mission statement?
A: DAN: Our mission and purpose is to equip and inspire visionaries in motion. And in that regards we are always looking for people who are imagining the workplace a little differently and who are just creators in general. Working with W Hotel + CFDA has allowed us to go and do business activations and go on inspiration trips for us to really explore that.
Q: Nice! You mentioned Inspiration trips, where did you guys go?
A: DAN: We will be GOING to Hong Kong next month! It’ll be really great because Hong Kong is one of the greatest international hubs for business.
Q: Nice. So since you two have yet to partake on your inspiration trip, did anything inspire your mission statement or the collection itself in particular?
A: TIM: Everyone can be an entrepreneur. As long as they have the good idea and that passion and the grit and persistence to really pursue and execute what it is that they want to do. I think those are the people that inspire us and thats the way that we want to give back as well. I shouldn’t say this as a business person, but there are so many bags in the world. We don’t necessarily need to sell another bag, so I think its more so about trying to connect with people and seeing what they’re about and trying to connect with communities and being a part of the conversation.
Q: How do you think you’ve evolved from when you first launched you’re business in 2011.
A: DAN: I feel like both the industry and ourselves have evolved collectively. From the industry perspective, people aren’t discovering brands the same way they used to. Maybe if anything, a designer might say ‘this is the new blue’ or ‘blue is the new black’ and that would be the thing. Then it was the storers that would say ‘hey, this is the new thing’ and the stores would commend a lot of influence, but NOW people can find them on social media through influencers and bloggers. So through that we’re learning how to connect with consumers directly through both relationships with stores and with other partnerships.
A: TIM: Outside of the design and the business aspect, I think that we’ve evolved as brothers and business partners as well. We come from very different backgrounds so in the beginning it was really tough, you know. We had the same goals in mind but our approaches were so different. So I think as we continued to work together we improved on our communication and I think that’s what really helped us define our roles more and work i n a more healthy type of manner. I think that has really ALLOWED us to remain in business. I think if I were to be in business with my friend, then I don’t know if it would really last this long.
Q: Nice, so tell me, what’s next for you two?
A: TIM: I think for us what’s next is really just strategic partnerships that we have and really just trying to get involved in our modern professionals lifestyle which is really a part of the shared economy. Really about getting involved in the different communities and being a part of the conversation because we cant necessarily grow and learn if we’re just in our own bubble.
Celebrity Image Architect: Law Roach
Celebrity Image Architect and America’s Next Top Model Host has served as the mentor for these young designers and merchandised each brand’s showcase.
Q: What brings you to this event?
A: I was asked to be a mentor to the designers here at the The W Hotel + CFDA Incubator and I couldn’t believe it. I’m so honored and humbled to be around all of this young talent and to just be a soundboard for them and to just give them any advice for anything that they could possibly want to ask me. It just feels so good to be around CREATIVES. I Just feel like if you get to a certain point in your career where you can give back or mentor or help anybody out or be somebody’s friend at the moment then it’s amazing.
Q: As far as your personal career, Who are you working with currently?
A: Well currently I’m working with um, are you ready for this? Celine Dion, Zendaya, Ariana Grande, Demi Lavoto, Jessie J, Isabella Moneir, Mary J. Blige, and many more.
Q: So quick question, when do you SLEEP?
A: I don’t! I don’t sleep, I don’t eat, I don’t have a love life. All I have is clothes and beautiful women (laughs).
Q: So how has that been? I know when I first talked to you, you were only working with Zendaya at the time and now you have a wide range of clients. How do you manage it all?
A: I’ve worked with a lot of girls and I love every single one of them and I take a piece of every woman I’ve been around with me. It helps me prepare for the next. I just take it one day at a time and I’m just happy and grateful that people like me. (laughs)
Q: So curious to know, how do you manage taking care of your very FIRST baby, Zendaya, while still managing to take care of all of the rest?
A: Well Zendaya, she’s my number one and she’s also like my partner. She motivates me and wants me to do well and wants me to be the best that I can be and she understands when I get busy. Her and I, we just have a system that’s unbreakable. But I do have a team. I have two amazing assistants that work so hard and they give me a lot and I try to make sure that I give them just as much so that I can prepare them for what they want to do in the future after this.
Q: What can you tell me about what the next big thing is for you?
A: If all goes well I’m going to have something major at the AMA’s on sunday. I cant tell you
what it is but I can tell you that you should definitely pay attention.
Q: When are we going to see LAW’s debut as a designer in NYFW?
A: You know it’s funny, I think that being around this right here gives me more of a push and motivation to really get in and think out what I want to do.
Global Brand Marketing Director of W Hotels: Pablo Henderson
Q: How has your partnership been with the CFDA Incubator Program?
A: The partnership with CFDA has been amazing. This has been an incredible class and you can see just from the 5 designers that are the caliber and the passion in the craft. In a day in an age where we have this instantaneous gratification, you’re actually seeing people putting time into what they make and bringing things to life. The fact that there is a g lobal brand like W Hotels with a footprint of 53 Hotels around the world, working with emerging artists through a platform like CFDA and the Incubator Program to provide opportunity and to bring things to life, because you have your fashion insiders who are a part of this clique and then it’s our job to also educate and to raise the bar for everybody else. And I think that’s one of the most exciting things about this because you might not be the most saviest or fashionable person, but through W Hotels and travel you’re going to broaden you’re horizons and you’re going to maybe hear about a designer that you might not have known…YET.
Q: “YET”. Nice. That’s the key word. How have you addressed the business development aspect of the Incubator Program?
A: It would be a real missed opportunity to not address business development. Especially in the retail industry and the need for designers to constantly evolve because there is a business side to all of this. That came about through feedback that we received in one of the first or second classes and it was like ‘It’s great that we’re getting inspiration trips and that we’re getting the opportunity to highlight our work but we need to add a more business development layer to what we’re dong’. So I think its important to be responsive and we heard that feedback loud and clear and I think that this year has been the perfect marriage of creativity, inspiration, or testing new boundaries. The fact that we can provide support in that space makes me feel good because I’m doing something that is a tangible way of adding value to the designers.
Q: So what’s to come in upcoming CFDA + W Hotel projects?
A: One of the exciting things that we’ve been working on and that we launched yesterday in New York was our collection with Joan Smalls. It’s a capsule collection inspired by Joan Smalls “Off Duty” and its kind of the looks that she wears when she’s not on the runway. Im heading to Paris on Sunday where we’ll launch that collection in Europe. Obviously it makes sense to launch it in New York, but we also wanted to hit another fashion capital where we have a W Hotel.
Q: Nice, Is there anything else that we should be on the lookout for?
A: Yes, the Joan Smalls project ended up taking a really huge turn that was really not foreseen. She’s originally from Puerto Rico, which suffered from a major storm recently and the island is still recovering so Joan committed to using this collection to providing disaster relief. So that’s one of the most impactful things that we’re doing right now because there’s an immediate need. Next year will be a continued celebration of not only this class, but of all of the prior classes that we’ve worked with so I’m really excited to see this kind of homecoming and this idea of celebrating the third graduating class. I think that will be interesting as far as evolution because The W Hotel is all about, not only what’s new and next, but once we get too comfortable we like to shake things up a bit (laughs). So that’ll be the most interesting thing, to see how we decide to shake things up.
Images: J. Ryan Ulsh / W Hotels Worldwide.