Berkeley Today Stories
Fashion Student Among Designers in Residence at theBROOKLYNfashionincubator
Maria Barraza, Director of theBROOKLYNfashionincubator at Berkeley College, and Michael J. Smith, President of Berkeley College, cut the ribbon launching the incubator at Berkeley College in Brooklyn.
Five fashion entrepreneurs from Brooklyn, including Berkeley College Fashion Merchandising and Management student Phumelele Kunune, got their first big break as they became the inaugural group of designers in residence for theBROOKLYNfashionincubator (BFI) at Berkeley College. Over the next 12 months, the designers will have access to work space, supplies, and advice from leading experts in all facets of the fashion business, including sourcing, production, marketing, and e-commerce. The businesses range from African-inspired designs to clothing for infants and toddlers.
The BFI at Berkeley College is one of five fashion incubators spearheaded by Macy’s in talent-rich areas across the United States. Other sponsors include United Parcel Service, PGM Dress Form, and Express Trade Capital.
As the host institution in Brooklyn, Berkeley College will provide the design space for the incubator and the necessary equipment, including sewing machines, dress forms, and work areas at its campus. The incubator will also utilize Fashion Merchandising and Management students from Berkeley College as interns looking to learn the industry.
The Fashion Merchandising and Management program at Berkeley College was founded in 1970. Through the degree program, housed in the Larry L. Luing School of Business®, students integrate the creative and business aspects of the fashion industry, incorporating strategies and management skills in areas such as product development, retail buying, and visual merchandising.
“If New York City is the Fashion Capital of the World, then Brooklyn is the Fashion Incubator of the World – and the Innovation Capital at that,” said Michael J. Smith, President of Berkeley College. “Education is the foundation of economic development, and this is a tremendous fit with what we do at Berkeley College.”
New York City Council member Laurie Cumbo, who represents areas of Brooklyn, said she is excited to see this development happening in the community.
“Fashion is a product of diversity, and there is so much here in Brooklyn to offer inspiration,” she said.
Maria Barraza, Director of the BFI at Berkeley College, said the incubator provides a foot in the door in a challenging industry.
“A lot of people have great ideas, but to put pen to paper and actually transform it into a business is a challenge,” she said. “It is exciting to see these wonderful, talented designers growing their businesses here.”
BlackPhumelele is the company owned by Berkeley College student Phumelele Kunune. She grew up in Swaziland, South Africa, where her experience shaped her 1970s-inspired fashions.
“theBROOKLYNfashionincubator is an important resource for emerging fashion designers,” she said. “I’m grateful to be a part of it.”