For aspiring designers who are just starting out, what were some of the beginning steps you took to fund your label?
Even though luxury fashion is such a lucrative business, funding at the startup level is near nonexistent. Traditional funding sources consider it one of the arts, and if you haven’t reached profitability yet, you may qualify for a small grant or micro-loan. The money to get started came from my full-time job and the generosity of family and friends, and that was still never enough. Use everything you have to make something extraordinary and what you need will come.
Are there any specific funding or exposure resources available for up and coming designers?
Every designer should look at the CFDA/VOGUE Fashion Fund. It’s an extraordinary program that provides the very best tools and the very best in mentorship and support. There is a substantial cash prize for the winner. There’s also a Macy’s incubator program new designers could use as a great way to develop further.
What was your scariest or lowest moment as a designer and how did you overcome it?
My hardest moment was having an actual order for my first collection from the luxury department store Henri Bendel and not being able to finance the manufacturing. My meeting was with the Fashion Director. She was very impressed with the collection; it was an amazing meeting! Other luxury stores followed suit.
I was sure that financing would come easily, but as a young brand with no existing corporate credit history, extending the money to my business proved to be too risky for them or too costly for me. That said, I did not raise the capital to manufacture my garments and in turn had to work really hard to keep the relationships with the buyers who would not be receiving the collection. Luckily, they were very understanding.
What about the proudest moment and what made it so special?
My proudest moment was having my mother attend one of my shows in New York. I’m a native Washingtonian, and my mom had been very ill since the launch of my business and unable to travel. Seeing her face at the side of the runway was one of the happiest moments of my life. She passed away in November 2014.
Aspiring fashion professionals interested in ESPION Atelier can send internship or career submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click through the next pages to see some of our favorites from ESPION’s “Kingdomâ€ collection.