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Fashion incubator atop Macy's will create jobs, launch careers

Coming soon to Macy's downtown location: a job factory.

In the works for years and years, the D.C. Fashion Foundation's fashion incubator is scheduled to open June 4, with designers moving in to the space next month.

The modest 1,000-square-foot space, in a disused inventory closet above Macy's at 1201 G St NW, will host six "Designers in Residence" -- fashion designers with 3-7 years of experience under their belt from D.C., Prince George's County, and possibly Alexandria, Virginia -- as well as a handful of "cultural exchange" designers from overseas.

In the space, designers will find everything they need to run their business--industrial sewing machines and fabric, yes, but also access to 25 mentors, including Shaka King, who D.C. Fashion Foundation president/CEO Christine Brooks Cropper calls "my Tim Gunn." King, who has been in fashion for decades, will be working with mentees on a daily basis.

There's a process to running a successful fashion business, Brooks Cropper says, from designing a garment to making a sample to pitching it to buyers, and "that A-Z process is lacking in our industry here. People think, 'Oh, I can make a garment and then someone will come buy it.'" That's where the mentors come in--as well as buyer's breakfasts, where the foundation will invite in Macy's buyers but also buyers from other nearby stores to view members' latest collections.

The designers-in-residence--which have been chosen but not yet announced--had to be fairly far along in their fashion journey, with at least three and up to seven years of experience. "This is all about business; this is not about helping you hit it big," Brooks Cropper says. "It's about us helping further you along."

Will the fashion incubator--which, sadly, is not open to the public--finally kill off the D.C. stereotype of our frumpy, style-less people? (Seriously, kill this meme dead, please.)

"What I always tell people--the things we do in D.C. are the same things people do in New York, so I don't know how we end up getting the bad rap that fashion doesn't exist here." Besides, that's style. "This is a profession. This is an occupation. This is workforce development. And we have people who have been doing it for years and years. Fashion has always existed here. We're creating jobs, creating businesses."

Read more articles by Rachel Kaufman.

Rachel is the managing editor of Elevation D.C. She also covers tech, business and science for publications nationwide. She lives in Brookland.
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