a group of six men and women pose in dark clothing in their white-walled studio space

Saint Louis Fashion Incubator aims to revitalize the Garment District

SLFI focuses on entrepreneurship and the business of fashion.

an architecturally spare room with fashion design tools and fabrics
Photo courtesy of Arcturis and Alise O’Brien Photography.

The mission of the Saint Louis Fashion Incubator, located downtown in the old “Shoe Street USA” building on Washington Ave, is a big one: to revitalize the Garment District of St. Louis, which was once second only to New York, and bring fashion back to this city.

Spearheaded by the Saint Louis Fashion Fund, SLFI selected its inaugural class of six designers in January. According to Executive Director Eric Johnson, “The quality and diversity of the designers is evidence that there is a real need in the market for a program like [SLFI], which concentrates on entrepreneurship skills and the business of fashion” in a place like St. Louis where the low cost of living is advantageous.

The incubator’s 2-year residency program provides the six chosen designers with free studio space, financial support, a best-in-class business curriculum, mentorship from local and national advisory councils, and access to prime sales opportunities. In addition, the designers receive business support from Olin Business School, a collaboration that can lead to key industry partnerships and opportunities.

As a partner of SLFI, Washington University contributes to the incubator’s efforts to both set its inaugural designers on the path to success as well as “provide education and outreach to the broader community,” in the words of director Johnson.

Mayor Francis Slay expressed great confidence in the Saint Louis Fashion Incubator as a means of attracting and retaining creative talent and helping St. Louis grow as a hub for innovation. “We are laser-focused as a community on helping entrepreneurs achieve success,” he said.

Read the full article at STL Partnership.