High Ground News: Memphis Fashion Week creator starts incubator to develop talent
A few steps off of the Main Street Mall in Downtown Memphis lies a curated selection of Memphis made clothing, fine jewelry, paintings and other accessories. Underneath the temporary boutique, and down a spiral metal staircase on a weekday, you will find one or two fashion designers busily working at a whirring sewing machine or pinning a nearly finished piece to a mannequin.
After completing a piece, the designer will bring it upstairs to be immediately sold to the general public.
Trunk shows held at the pop up shop include a bespoke raw denim retailer and a custom women’s shirtdress creator.
Fifteen local designers are currently housed in the Made by Memphis on Main pop up show at 147 S. Main Street. Memphis Fashion Week founder Abby Phillips created the operation of which the top floor is retail and the bottom floor is a Memphis Fashion Week incubator for designers.
Phillips opened the pop up portion in May. It is in operation from 10:30a.m. to 7p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays and 11a.m. to 2p.m. on Sundays. The designers are at the shop daily, but take meetings by appointment only.
The incubator and pop up shop will stay at their current location until the end of June. Phillips is looking for a permanent space for the incubator, but said that it will not include retail in the next iteration. She would, however, like to offer workshops. The next space will only feature pop up or trunk show events on weekends.
The three designers who have participated in the incubator are designers who participated in Memphis Fashion Week’s Emerging Memphis Designer Project that Phillips selected. After starting the Emerging Memphis Design Project four years ago, Phillips saw a need for workspace, the ability to collaborate with other designers, and a way to share business resources, such as accounting and marketing.
The goal of the Emerging Memphis Designer Project is to cultivate local talent, as well as springboard up and coming local designers into showing a full collection in Memphis Fashion Week as a featured designer.
The current incubator allowed Phillips to figure out what works, for example, what machines work better in shared space.
Six of the 15 pop up shop creators have shown in Memphis Fashion Week. In the future, Phillips said the designers would be accepted to the incubator via an application process.
Terial Lee participated in the incubator during the month of May. Andrea Fenise and Tiena Gwin have both been active in the incubator since May.
Gwin, a women’s apparel designer, has shown her designs in the Memphis Fashion Week’s Emerging Memphis Designer Project for the past two years. She has been a designing for about six years.
Gwinn said that she valued being in the incubator because of the support system provided versus working alone. She also said that working alongside the different designers allowed the women to figure out alternate techniques to complete tasks.
Overall, Gwin said that her experience in the incubator has been a positive one.
“It’s made me be more focused on what I really want to do and made me keep moving forward,” she said.
Another incubator designer, Andrea Fenise, has been selling her designs to the public for three years. She showed apparel in the Emerging Memphis Designer Project in the 2016 Memphis Fashion Week after previously being rejected, she said.
In addition to increased brand awareness and the sense of community found among the designers, Fenise said she benefitted from getting real time feedback from potential customers who she can watch looking at her garments.
“I’ve learned to listen and take feedback, to take it to grow,” she said.