Way back when, Washington Avenue was the place to sew and be sewn. Next to New York City’s Garment District, the district on the still-stylish street in downtown St. Louis was the leader in garment manufacturing in the United States. That all changed following World War II, where most of the business moved offshore. But things are changing for the better, and fashion is found in the district again as the Saint Louis Fashion Fund unveiled a “stylish groundbreaking” this morning, introducing the city to the Saint Louis Fashion Incubator.
The Incubator will host six inaugural designers when it officially opens in January 2017. The emerging designers — Donald Charles Smith Brame II and Allison Mitchell of Dallas; Agnes Hamerlik of Chicago; Emily Koplar of St. Louis; Audra Noyes of New York, and Reuben Reuel Riddick of Brooklyn — were selected by a distinguished panel that included Fern Mallis, creator of New York Fashion Week; Michael Fink, the dean of School of Fashion at the Savannah College of Art Design, and Christene Barberich, Global Editor-in-Chief and founding member of Refinery29. As a result, the designers were awarded free work space within the 7,500-square-foot studio, as well as financial support, mentorship, sales opportunities and access to small-run sampling and manufacturing for two years.
Hosted by Saint Louis Fashion Fund Chair Susan Sherman, the groundbreaking ceremony featured speeches from Mayor Francis Slay and Saint Louis Fashion Fund Executive Director, Eric Johnson. It also featured special appearances from students at Lift For Life Academy— a St. Louis charter school with an up-and-coming fashion program, and former workers of the original St. Louis Garment District, including designer Mort Moreland. .