City Launches Fashion Pop-Up Competition with Diane von Furstenberg

By Jill Colvin on December 20, 2011 7:00am 

Designer Diane Von Furstenberg attends the Museum of Modern Art's 4th Annual Film benefit "A Tribute to Pedro Almodovar" at the Museum of Modern Art on Nov. 15, 2011.
Designer Diane Von Furstenberg attends the Museum of Modern Art's 4th Annual Film benefit "A Tribute to Pedro Almodovar" at the Museum of Modern Art on Nov. 15, 2011.
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Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

MIDTOWN — The city is getting in on fashion’s biggest trend, taking the next step toward launching an annual competition for young designers that will help them open pop-up shops on the city's dime.

"Project Pop-up," envisioned by a team of industry insiders that includes powerhouse designer Diane von Furstenberg, Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren and Theory CEO Andrew Rosen, will give young fashion retailers in the city the chance to compete to sell their their clothing, jewelry, purses and shoes from pop-ups at prime locations across the city.

The competition is intended to promote innovative retail concepts that make shopping more interesting in stores and online.

“Project Pop-up will serve to accelerate the growth of budding fashion retail concepts by offering mentoring, business support, and high-traffic retail space at little to no cost to the winning company or companies," said a spokesman for the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which released a request for proposals to find a partner to organize the competition Monday.

“The goal of the contest is to spur and catalyze innovation in retail,” added the request, which pledges up to $175,000 in city cash to get the concepts off the ground.

In addition to the pop-ups, the winners, who will be chosen by a panel of industry experts, will also receive other perks, including free marketing, tech support, help with legal and accounting work, and mentors to help them thrive.

The launch is part of a larger effort by the city to attract promising young designers to boost the city's fashion industry, which already employs about 165,000 people a year.

"Fashion Draft NYC," which brings college grads from around the world to New York to network and interview for top jobs with companies like Bloomingdale’s and Gilt Groupe, launched this September. In June, the city announced a new partnership with Parsons to launch "Fashion Campus NYC," an intensive weekend workshop that gives summer interns the chance to network with fashion leaders and learn about the business side of the industry.

Steel Space Productions used shipping containers for its DKNY pop-up shops.
Steel Space Productions used shipping containers for its DKNY pop-up shops.
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Steel Space Productions

Other efforts are also in the works, including a new fund to help emerging designers launch and connect with manufacturers, a new “entrepreneurial boot camp” aimed at teaching emerging designers how to manage finances and develop business plans, and a “fashion fellows” program that will provide mentoring and networking to 30 “rising stars” in fashion management.

Pop-ups have become increasingly popular over the past year, especially for fashion. Miniature DKNY outlets began popping up all over Manhattan earlier this month, while Canadian clothing retailer Joe Fresh has been making a splash with high-quality basics at low prices at pop-ups on West 34th Street and Madison Avenue.

Aside from clothing, Dylan's Candy Store has been doling its nostalgic candies, holiday-themed “Naughty or Nice” candy bars, Hanukkah chocolate coins and Advent calendars at its first-ever holiday pop-up across from Bryant Park. And Wired magazine has given tech geeks and gadget junkies an early Christmas with their largest-ever pop-up in Times Square.

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