Newport International Runway Group
PARIS — The jewelry designer Sara Beltrán owes part of her success to a Jaipur rickshaw taxi driver she met when on a business trip. From helping her find her house, to production and business contacts, he made the introductions. But a local connection can take you only so far. The Council of Fashion Designers of America is helping Ms. Beltrán develop her jet-set beach-vibe brand Dezso into a profitable global enterprise with its in-house incubator program.
The C.F.D.A., known for its charity fund-raising campaigns — particularly for HIV/AIDS research — and scholarships, introduced the incubator for emerging designers in 2009 as part of the initiatives of the mayor of New York at the time, Michael R. Bloomberg, to develop and retain entrepreneurs there.
The original proposal was to partner with the Fashion Institute of Technology, but Lisa Smilor, the council’s executive director, said she did not want to stake her organization’s reputation on students fresh out of school.
Instead, the C.F.D.A. set admission guidelines strictly to American designers who have established businesses at least two years old, and who have received notable press and orders from top-tier retailers. For its current class, the third generation, the council accepted 10 brands out of 35 applicants.
After starting their business with $8,000 of personal funds and growing 30 percent annually over five years, Farah Malik and Dana Arbib, the designers of the jewelry brand A Peace Treaty, hit a wall. They were looking for an opportunity. The designers, who produce in 10 countries, had organized communities of older artisans to train younger generations in order to revitalize dying craftsmanship techniques, such as camel bone carving in Rajasthan. Ms. Malik said the kind of mentoring they had fostered was missing for their own business...