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Opening Day at the CFDA Fashion Incubator

A welcome from Waris Ahluwalia, Prabal Gurung, Tom Scott, Alice Ritter and Joel Diaz

Maybe it’s because everyone was dressed up and drinking coffee all day, but the mood at Wednesday’s official opening of the CFDA Fashion Incubator—the glossy-floored corridor of 12 glass-walled studios in New York City’s Garment District—seemed giddy and full possibility, like Open House at the beginning of the school year.

Jennifer Manko, who designs with Bibhu Mohapatra, was turned out in one of the label’s samples: a silky-soft grey number with a bow that flopped prettily on her collarbone. French designer Alice Ritter, who loves her new studio but misses her Williamsburg workspace’s proximity to Bakeri, brought a box of brioche for the occasion. Waris Ahluwalia spread the love, pinning “Waris ♥’s You” badges on particular passers-by. At lunchtime the CFDA turned it into a pizza party, and come nightfall the guys from Public School brought it downtown to Norwood. But the Incubator isn’t just bringing together the coolest kids in school (and a diverse group they are), the program also comprises an advisory board that includes lawyers like the dapper Doug Hand, whose firm advises Phillip Lim, Rag & Bone, Tod’s and more. Hand said he helps designers with challenges like financing, corporate structure and the all-important protection of creative control, adding that he likes getting a little “creative pixie dust” from the designers while helping them translate the letter of the law.

In addition to sprinkling pixie dust on those who enter their space, the designers at 209 West 38th are spreading it around the ailing heart of New York City’s Garment District. Ritter, who produces her collection with a partner in Hong Kong, said she’s thinking about making a few samples in the neighborhood. Bibhu Mohapatra‘s pattern-maker stopped by to snap some photos of his dresses on display, and knitwear designer Tom Scott said he’s happy his sweater factory is now just a couple stops away on the 7-train. Natalie Levy and Erin Kelly of Grey Ant are working to shift their factory base from L.A. to New York City, where they said quality is undoubtedly superior.

Here’s to new beginnings.

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L.A. transplants Natalie Levy and Erin Kelly of Grey Ant

Lawyer Douglas Hand of Hand Baldachin & Amburgey

A Tom Scott sweater

Badges at the House of Waris

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