Meet The CFDA Incubator Class Of 2014
Today, the CFDA Incubator welcomes its newest group of initiates: Antonio Azzuolo, Arielle Shapiro of Ari Dein, Doug and Ben Burkman of Burkman Bros, Christian Cota, Emanuela Duca, Rick Hendry and Marc Daniels of Isaora, Luis Fernandez of Number: Lab, Reece Solomon of Reece Hudson, Timo Weiland and Alan Eckstein of Timo Weiland, and Maayan Zilberman and Nikki Dekker of The Lake & Stars. The selection committee of industry leaders, including Style.com’s executive editor, Nicole Phelps, carefully picked this group of ten young designers to follow in the footsteps of the inaugural dozen designers who kicked off the program in February 2010. We have watched the careers of current all-stars in the Incubator, like Prabal Gurung and Bibhu Mohapatra, flourish during their short time in the “fashion frat,” and here, we check in with the newest pledge “class II” before they move into 209 West 38th Street.
a. a. Antonio Azzuolo
This marks designer Antonio Azzuolo‘s second time in an Incubator program. After graduating from Ryerson University, the Montreal native took part in the Canadian version. “There are programs like the Incubator all over the world and I always wondered why the States didn’t have one,” he says. Following the program, he lived in Paris for ten years, where he honed his skills at labels like Kenzo and Hermès. Now, with his own menswear label, the designer is heavily focused on the concept of duality. “Being a twin [sibling], I have always had aspects of feminity and masculinity in my work,” the designer says. For Spring ’12, however, expect to see opposing French and Japanese cultural influences at play.
“I’ve been decorating my space in the Incubator for about six months now,” lingerie designer Arielle Shapiro tells us. “In my mind, that is.” Now that it’s a reality, however, she has an antique mirror, an old yellow Chippendale chair, and a vintage suitcase on hand to fill what will become her home-away-from-home. For Shapiro, her surroundings have always played a crucial role in her design process. Most recently, her innerwear and swimwear Invisible Cities collection was inspired by a trip to Rome. Eventually, Shapiro’s hoping to parlay that interest in architecture and interior design by developing her budding brand into a full lifestyle collection to include “more swim and ready-to-wear, bedding, and home.”
You might recognize the Burkman Bros name thanks to Kanye West, who wore Doug and Ben Burkman’s woven bracelets at Coachella this year. From rappers to rugged men, their casual menswear line has since found a steady stream of followers. For Spring 2012, the globetrotting brothers were feeling Hawaiian after a trip to the islands. “We learned how to surf and found a lot of inspiration in the Hawaiian culture, particularly in relation to how we like to use prints and color,” says Doug. As for the Incubator, Ben says, “Working in a proper office space should be interesting…To have that divide between work and our home should be nice.”
“The whole environment will be like going back to school,” says designer Christian Cota, who realized the wealth of benefits that comes from being a part of the Incubator program after talking to some of his friends in the current crop. “Obviously, with Diane von Furstenberg as the CFDA president, you have a tremendous support system helping you out,” Cota, who has received several honorable accolades in the past few years, like Fashion Group International’s Rising Star Award and a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund nomination, says. “I’m at the point with my business where we are really expanding, and having their help to do it is key.” For Spring ’12, look out for a strong showing of polished signature Cota looks, like mixing structure with softer fabrics, and a plethora of prints.
“My work represents my life experience,” says jewelry designer Emanuela Duca. “The rough surfaces, it’s what comes from the Roman culture, and the slick part, that’s my life in Manhattan.” Born and raised in Rome, the New York transplant has managed to find a beautiful balancing point between the two cultures in her work. Her structural collection of textural jewelry has a niche retail market, selling in galleries around the world, but Duca, like Isaora designer Ricky Hendry, wants to expand her business to reach a wider clientele with the help of the Incubator program.
“The whole being greater than the sum of the parts,” says Isaora designer Ricky Hendry. He is explaining the “alchemic equations” that serve as inspiration behind his Spring 2012 men’s sportswear collection, but the same idea could be perfectly applied to the Incubator program. Hendry, who formerly conceptualized clothing for Theory, and his co-founder Marc Daniels, who has a strong background in software and technology, echoed similar cries we heard from the new Incubator crew. “It has been a successful two and a half years for us, especially this last season, but we are ready to go out there and create brand awareness and really grow our business with the help of the CFDA,” Hendry tells Style.com.
“It really started as a T-shirt company,” says designer Luis Fernandez, who launched his label, Number:Lab, with his business partner Greg Lawrance in 2007. Since then, it has evolved into a casual-cool menswear line punctuated by technology and tailoring—two concepts driven by his background as a former architect and his interest in athletic gear. An avid boxer (when not in the midst of prepping for fashion week), Fernandez explains, “Everything used in sports gear has a sense or purpose and I think that’s genius—we need to really incorporate that into our daily sportswear.” Come September, expect to see that theme unfold once more with his “urban skateboarding” and “French Riviera chic” looks.
Handbag designer Reece Solomon of Reece Hudson didn’t waste any time making a name for herself among New York fashion circles. In just a few years, Solomon made the jump from Parsons student and Proenza Schouler intern to Incubator resident. Needless to say, she and her partner, Max Stein, are eager to graduate to “a proper work space” to match. Until then, Solomon is hard at work in her Nolita apartment (also her current workspace) in preparation for her first ever showing at Milk Studios next month. Of her Spring ’12 collection, she says, “I have more color ways than ever before, and I’m continuing to use lots of exotics skins and a few woven fabrics.”
Timo Weiland and design partner Alan Eckstein are known for their youthful, slightly eccentric clothes. Turns out that designation fits the designers themselves, too. When they got the phone call this week from the CFDA’s Lisa Smilor, Weiland says, “we were in a meeting and we started jumping up and down and screaming, but we couldn’t explain it to anyone because we had to keep it a secret until Thursday. It’s a good thing Waris [Ahluwalia] convinced us to apply for this.”
The Lake & Stars
Before Britney Spears—a client of The Lake & Stars takes to the stage in one of the label’s smoldering hot numbers, someone has to test things out first. “Because of the nature of our collection, we walk around in our samples,” says Nikki Dekker, who co-designs the lingerie line with Maayan Zilberman. “In the past, we have worked at home, but now that we will be in the Incubator with clear glass walls, that could be a problem, depending on who you talk to.” Lucky for them, the pajama-dressing trend doesn’t seem to be losing steam, and the two are hard at work adding pajama loungewear pieces to their signature collection, known for its attention to the little details of lingerie like special clasps and trims. “We have been asking all of our friends what to call our pajama/loungewear pieces because they are something you would want to wear out at night, not boring old pj’s, so we don’t want to call them that,” Zilberman explains. Also, the two are adding to their offerings next month with a new, still-under-wraps collaboration.