This week, Pratt Institute held a ribbon-cutting for the Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator, a collective workspace that will help local designers launch and grow their businesses. Located in Williamsburg, the Accelerator aims to reinvigorate New York City's local fashion industry. It will not only provide space for design, but also resources, technology and machinery for manufacturing.
Starting in early 2014, the center will be home to 30 designers and their companies. Similar to a co-working space, the Accelerator will give entrepreneurs shared tools like 3D printers, dye stations and knitting machines, in addition to networking and coaching opportunities. The space will also have a public "Plaza" space, where events like fashion shows can be held.
The Accelerator will be committed to ethical production and environmentally sustainable practices. "I've been focused on developing tools that help designers integrate and understand the impact of their work," said Debera Johnson, the founder of the Accelerator and the Executive Director of Pratt's Center for Sustainable Design Strategies. They will focus on four main aspects: resource use, recycling, toxicity, and social equity. Johnson said they will work with designers day by day to reduce their environmental impact.
"We will support local manufacturing through our micro-run production facility, and will create a network that will link production needs with manufacturers in NYC," Johnson said. "The eco-materials sourcing lab includes consulting services that will introduce designers to eco-friendly textiles and make the connection to suppliers."
So far, five companies have been selected to move in. Designers interested in joining can apply online. Selected candidates will be reviewed by Johnson, the current entrepreneurs in residence, and a few of the Accelerator's business mentors. "I hope people reading this think about joining us - either as one of our client companies or as a part of our network," Johnson said. "We are looking for high potential candidates who have been in business long enough to understand how hard it is to be successful and are ambitious, energized, and care about the future of society and the planet."
One of the resident design companies is Alder New York, started by David J. Krause and Nina Zilka, is already committed to using natural materials and local production. Another one of the selected designers is Jasmine Aarons, founder and designer for Voz, which makes knitwear by traditional weaving techniques.
Before the Accelerator can open its doors, renovations and electrical updates need to be completed. "There are a lot of materials in the space that we're hoping to reuse eventually," Johnson said. "We want the space to be as open as possible so all of our tenants and workforce have access to natural light."
In addition to supporting the local economy through sourcing, the Accelerator will also host public events for other area designers and businesses. And of course, these designers will be turning to the local market to sell their goods. The Accelerator will host a retail shop and e-commerce site, making products available right where they are designed and made. "It will be a community without boundaries connected by values," Johnson said.