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October 12, 2015

Incubator alumni form Philadelphia Fashion Alliance

New organization looks to strengthen local industry

Design Fashion
Fashion Alliance launch Aubrey Nagle/for PhillyVoice

Models show off the work of local designers Victoria Wright (left) and Annina King (right).

Just as the semiannual fashion weeks in New York, London, Paris and Milan are finally winding down, one of Philly's biggest fashion events, the Philadelphia Collection, is in full swing. The week of pop-up stores and parties, which began Oct. 7 and continues through Wednesday, puts local designers and boutique owners in the spotlight. 

As the Collection's packed calendar suggests, many entrepreneurial designers have chosen to make their homes in Philadelphia rather than fashion havens like New York. Sunday's launch of the Philadelphia Fashion Alliance, an independent organization for alumni of the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator, shows just how advantageous sticking around the city can be.

Eight of the twelve brands who have gone through the popular Incubator program -- Granaté Annina King, Jovan O'Connor, Minkeeblue Handbags, Rebeca Imperiano, Senpai + Kohai, Supra Endura, Terese Sydonna and Victoria Wright -- are involved in the Alliance to date. The group's main purpose is to maintain the support network and creative drive they fostered while working together at the Incubator. The designers also hope that by banding together they can raise their own profiles and, by extension, that of the city's fashion industry. Essentially, they know there is strength in numbers.

To kick off their new venture, they held a group presentation of their upcoming spring and summer collections Sunday at the Philadelphia Art Alliance. All were represented except Supra Endura, covering two upper floors of the Wetherill Mansion with well-heeled women, racks of new clothes and the city's chic set. The designers themselves were on the floor, too, mingling with fashion bloggers, admiring students and entrepreneurs. 

The group's goal is to host these collective events (think trunk shows and pop-ups) monthly to keep business booming. If their well-attended launch is any indication, the city is certainly interested. 

"One of my favorite things about Philadelphia as opposed to New York is that the fashion designers here, the boutiques, the artists, the makers -- we're all such a tight-knit community," said designer Victoria Wright. "I think the Alliance is really going to bring us all together to help support each other."

"The talent is here," designer Terese Sydonna agreed. "Boutiques are open to us, buying our collections. All of us are carried in stores. It's definitely there."

Though the involved designers are hoping to help the whole city's fashion industry rise, they're keeping the Alliance in the Incubator family for now.

"Having gone through that process, we all know the difficulty, the intensity and the challenge of completing that, so these designers are all of a certain caliber," Sydonna said. "It's so beneficial to our organization. It can only get bigger and better from here. It's so unlimited now what we can do."

Some might think that Philadelphia's smaller fashion scene would make competition especially fierce. But for members of the Alliance, sticking together is a way to motivate and inspire each other.

"Honestly we look at it like each brand is different in its own way. We might have the same customers but each brand is so distinctive," Sydonna said. "We see it as there's definitely room for everyone."

"We always want to be positive and support each other," she added, "and we always, at the end of the day, want to let everyone know what we're doing and that there is a fashion community in Philadelphia. 

Information on future PFA events is under wraps for now, but the designers are already planning a special holiday pop-up. 

"We're still working out the details, so stay tuned!" Wright said with a grin. "But it's sure to be really wonderful."