Fashion Trust U.S. is a nonprofit dedicated to discovering, funding, and nurturing emerging talent with the aim of helping them build their label into a thriving global brand. Emerging Ready-to-Wear, Jewelry, Accessories (shoes & handbag) and Graduate Student Designers based in the U.S. are encouraged to apply.
Award categories include the aforementioned with additional awards based on initiatives important to FTUS for Sustainability, Creativity, and Inclusivity.
On May 2nd, the Lower East Side Girls Club (LESGC) was host to a celebration of the 2023 fellows from the Elaine Gold Launch Pad program. The three fellows — Dirty Celebrity, Liselle Kiss, and T1tan Studio — were honored alongside young women from the LESGC who participated with them in a seven-week fashion/design mentoring program. The event also marked the conclusion of the Launch Pad’s virtual residency and grant initiative for the 2023 season.
The Elaine Gold Launch Pad is the brainchild of the CFDA and the Accessories Council. Started in 2017, the Launch Pad provided $700,000 in micro-grants and mentorship to 16 early emerging brands before being put on pause during the three years of the pandemic. This year, the program delivered $105,000 in micro-grants to three early-phase brands founded by women of color, including $5,000 each for sustainability investments and business grants of $30,000 each for any area of need. Additionally, the three BIPOC female founders were mentored by executives from Brosway Italia, CFDA, Design Quadrant, Hand Baldachin & Associates LLP, Hedaya Capital, LHB Group, Revivethecool, and Vogue.
Each of the three fellows were chosen after meeting a list of criteria that included identifying as a a BIPOC woman, being in business for less than three years, earning revenue of $10 million or less, and employing no more than 30 people.
Throughout the program, the designers were challenged to make responsible design and business decisions that integrated community building, supply chain protocols, sustainability, and youth culture through meaningful intergenerational learning in collaboration with the LESGC young women designers. All participants benefitted from the expertise of session hosts, including Brosway Italia, Lynette Brubaker of LHB Group, and sustainability expert Frank Zambrelli.
A jewelry and accessories intensive class challenged the LESGC youth designers to use their creativity to design elaborate jewelry with a focus on crowns to symbolize royalty, beauty, and tradition. A sewing and design intensive class taught them basic skills and challenged them to create responsibly using up-cycled materials. The wearable works of art were showcased at the event.
Additionally, throughout the course of their residency, the fellows had the opportunity to meet with a manufacturer from the CFDA Production Directory for a one-hour info share session around production and best practices for emerging designs. Participating manufacturers were: Kyung Park of Sepia NYC, who met with Liselle Kiss; Christine McPartland of Earwings, who met with Dirty Celebrity’s Eva and Yvette Estime, and Pauline Lock from InStyle USA, who met with T1tan Studio’s Madelen Nyau.
“We learned about finance and we learned about sustainability,” said Kiss. “My bags are made with up-cycled materials, so it was really great to have a sustainability section. It was so nice to meet with Sepia. We are really excited to not just be a woman and Black-owned brand, but also by the fact that we are creating inclusive luxury, and that’s very important.”
Nyau of T1tan Studio added, “I try to find different ways to express my own curiosities and building a creative language based on that. It was so great to work with the girls and be around young people. Their perception of fashion was very pure and optimistic.”
Dirty Celebrity’s Eva Estime agreed. “We learned so much crafting our brand here at the Lower Eastside Girls Club and we actually did a community event in Jersey City in collaboration with Mint Market for Earth Day.”
About the 2023 Launch Pad Fellows:
Eva and Yvette Estime created Dirty Celebrity to help everyone express themselves with attention-grabbing statement pieces sure to spark a conversation. Eva and Yvette purposely design high-quality, sustainable, and unique fashion accessories, including handbags, sunglasses, hair accessories, hats, scarves, and timeless jewelry pieces. They have won the Klarna Initiative, the Luminary Fellowship, and entrepreneurial funding from Coralus x PNC.
Liselle Kiss was raised by a Trinidadian mother in Miami and is currently based in Brooklyn, so her design sensibility pulls from all of these cultures, cities and beyond. After years in couture and bridal styling, the Parsons School of Design graduate shifter her attention to handbags in an effort to provide women timeless, elegant, affordable luxury that inspires confidence and freedom of expression. Her handbags are currently available at Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s, and Nordstrom.
T1tan Studio’s Madelen Nyau was born in Zambia, raised in Queens, and is now based in Brooklyn. Innovation and experimentation informs the Pratt University graduate, who has worked at Thompson Street Studio and anOnlyChild. Among her accolades are a Christopher on Point Award, participation in CFDA’s Fashion Future Graduate Showcase, and the Season Zero design contest.