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Being chosen for the Incubator Program rescued Alice Ritter from the fate of many new designers who succumb to the pressures of the business. “In 2009 I was on the verge of losing my company. I couldn’t believe it when they considered me to be part of the program.” She’s since learned that a successful business needs more than fabulously made garments. It needs clear goals and a mission statement. “It’s an industry where you need to work on strategy to know where we’re going and how much we want.”

For jewelry designer Rachel Dooley, the self-taught innovator behind Gemma Redux, one of the greatest assets a young designer can have is the support of the industry: “It’s amazing what you get from working with people who have been in business so long.” The camaraderie with other designers is also valuable. “We’re already having talks of collaborations. It’s really a creative composite,” boasts Dooley.

The program lasts for only two years, but the rewards are long term. Dooley anticipates expanding Gemma Redux to include handbags and shoes. A full line of romantic clothes with a masculine edge, as well as accessories may be in Ritter’s future. “Independence is very, very important,” Ritter declares. No matter what, “I want to be in charge of my own company.” For all the designers in the program, the training and financial boost received from the CFDA Fashion Incubator will make their goals easier to attain.

Gemma Redux