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Fashion Week Creates Opportunity for FIT Grads Looking For Big Break

By Della Hasselle | February 10, 2012 6:33am
Her fur hat is one of her many accessories.
Her fur hat is one of her many accessories.
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Lauren Bagliore

MANHATTAN — Top trendsetters such as Oscar de la Renta and Diane von Furstenberg aren't the only designers scrambling to tie up loose ends as Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2012 kicks off.

On the outskirts of the tents at Lincoln Center, through spinoff fashion shows that might catch the eye of influential bloggers or through Garment District internship opportunities, graduates from the Fashion Institute of Technology are hustling to get a leg up in the industry. 

Four lucky FIT grads, who won the first emerging designers' contest held by Covergirl and taste-making website Polyvore, will present their collections Monday at a show to be live streamed on Polyvore held at Le Venue in Chelsea, right in the middle of Fashion Week.

"There are going to be industry professionals seeing my work," FIT graduate and Queens-based designer Vengsarkar “Ven” Budhu, said as he described the show.

As a struggling new designer, this kind of exposure is exactly what he needs.

"Getting in contact with industry professionals is just so difficult," Budhu, 28, said. "Only a handful of designers ever even get their attention. Now there's this opportunity for them to sit there and see what we're all about."

According to Polyvore, the show will feature bloggers doubling as models, and items will be presented ahead of time on the site, so interested viewers can mix and match pieces to create their own looks online.

Although the show is invitation-only, the designers will be able to reach to potential buyers and retailers because it will be streamed live online.

Despite being awarded FIT's "Designer of the Year" upon graduation six years ago, Budhu has not been able to show his designs until now. He describes the assortment of red silk pieces that make up his collection as "luxurious" and "glamorous." 

"I would like to get orders from buyers," the struggling designer said about his goals for Monday's show. "At the end of the day, you have to sell."

For FIT grad and Garment District-based designer Lauren Bagliore, the modeling bloggers are the biggest draw.

Bagliore is hoping that because the bloggers will get to wear her garments, she'll get a better chance of getting positive feedback in forms of write-ups on their blogs.

"The relevance of social media in this industry right now is huge. Barriers are really broken down because anyone can be a writer," Bagliore said. "I feel like it's a good and bad thing, but social media reaches out to a lot of people that designers would otherwise have to wait a long time to reach."

Bagliore should know.

She's slowly getting her name out, with half a dozen fashion shows under her belt, two of them pegged to run during Fashion Week this year, and a handful of loyal clientele. She credits her blossoming success to bloggers who often compliment her work, a ready-to-wear collection that she describes as feminine, edgy and versatile, with an entry-level price point of $595.

"Just now I've had three bloggers say that they feel comfortable and confident in my clothes," she said after a recent fitting for Monday's show. "They say it's so stylish and edgy. They want to know if they can work with me on future shows."

Even for FIT grads, who aren't quite ready to show collections, there are opportunities to start building contacts amid the hustle and bustle of the Garment District during Fashion Week.

Fledgling corset designer Kirk Whitmer, who has an Associate's degree from FIT and a Master's degree in aerospace engineering, said that his internship at Mood Fabrics in the Garment District and with New York-based designer Arak has never been as valuable as it is right now, during Fashion Week.

In addition to meeting industry professionals, he's getting some good advice from "made" designers, too.

"There's definitely a lot more activity. People are coming and going at three times the normal rate, and I'm keeping a notebook of all the people I'm meeting," he said. "People you meet, they tell you where they screwed up, what they would have done differently starting out — it's much more valuable than telling you what they did right."

Erin Flynn, a co-founder of new website Righting Style, which hopes to connect designers with bloggers and other fashion insiders, said the Fashion Week was invaluable for budding designers.

"I hear all the time from new designers how hard it is to get your clothes seen, especially in this market right now. Fashion Week is a great way to meet and network and get your product out there," Flynn, 25, said. "For the industry connection, it's huge."