The Council of Fashion Designers of America has elected to team up with Cadillac to create a “retail lab,” which will consist of giving designers a crash course on the process of opening up a store of their own. The concept will begin in July, 2016 with designer Timo Weiland. It is well-known that car companies are the most frequent sponsors in the fashion industry (think Mercedes-Benz’s eight year stint as the namesake for New York Fashion Week), so this partnership is within the norm.
Cadillac is relatively new to working with the fashion industry, but now it is the leading sponsor for the menswear round of New York Fashion Week. The luxury car company has also supported various shows for designers such as Jason Wu, J. Mendel, and Public School; Wu even made an appearance in a 2015 Cadillac commercial on TV.
The Retail Lab from this partnership will integrate participating designers into a mentorship program, with a distinct focus on young and budding labels who are looking to transition into the direct retail business. Through the program, the designers will be given an 800-square foot pop-up shop for three months, which will be located on the ground floor of Cadillac’s New York headquarters. In order to determine who will be able to participate in this program, the CFDA will put potential candidates through an extensive application process. The final decisions for participants will be selected personally by the advisory board for the Retail Lab, including Julie Gilhart, Reed Krakoff, Simon Doonan, and Steven Ahn, among others.
The essential grounds for participation in this concept is that the prospective designer does not have, nor has ever had, their own storefront. The Lab will give them a chance to interact with their customers in a more direct way, and will be able to be in charge of their own interior design and other visual stimulation methods. The leaders of the Lab will be covering all of the general costs of the store location (mannequins, displays, signs, etc.), and will provide advisers to help the designer with matters of marketing, logistics, and the buying of supplies for the store. And on top of all of these provisions, Cadillac will give the selected labels a $75,000 grant in order to promote future success with the visions of the designers.
Timo Weiland was selected for the first slot in July due to his previous involvement in the CFDA’s Incubator project. Steven Kolb, CEO of the CFDA, spoke on this decision, making sure to note the analysis was properly weighed, and that they made this first decision based from their 2014 program due to the Retail Lab’s quick approach.
Weiland commented, on behalf of the rest of his design team, that the label would be using the opportunity and space to extend their creative vision so the world could have a better idea of who the brand was on a more personal level. The team will also be playing around with decorations for their new temporary space, as well as temporary space, as well as show films and providing the customer with a fun shopping experience via playing the role of disc jockey on some occasions.
The application process opened on the CFDA website on April 5, and designers will have the chance to submit their applications until May 6, following the announcement at the end of May of the five selected designers who will later be participating. This is a unique project for the fashion industry, and one that will prove extremely beneficial to designers who are looking to get a foothold in the physical aspect of fashion retail. Even further, Cadillac as signed a three-year commitment to this, so we’ll see a lot of talent being rounded up over the course of the Retail Lab.
Photo courtesy of CFDA