St. Louis Fashion Incubator Announces Inaugural Class

The Saint Louis Fashion Incubator (SLFI), a project through the Saint Louis Fashion Fund and led by executive director, Eric Johnson, selected its first cohort of designers this week including one designer from St. Louis. Applications were accepted in men’s and women’s ready-to-wear, childrens and accessories (jewelry, shoes, handbags, millinery) and judged by“esteemed list of fashion industry elites including Fern Mallis, creator of New York Fashion Week.

ff_logo“We were thrilled with the 43 applicants for the new Saint Louis Fashion Incubator,” Johnson said in a statement. “They came from 11 states and 16 cities across the U.S. The quality and geographic diversity of the designers is evidence that there is a real need in the market for a program like ours, which concentrates on entrepreneurship skills and the business of fashion, while delivering in a place where there is a built-in cost advantage to living and doing business. We look forward to welcoming our “Inaugural Six” designers to St. Louis, and know they will play a pivotal role in helping bring the business of fashion back to our City.”

Johnson, former New York City Economic Development Corporation’s vice president for fashion & arts, oversaw $20 million in fashion initiatives and launched numerous programs to support fashion entrepreneurs and help rebuild NYC’s manufacturing industry.
The residency program begins In January 2017 and will last two years. The up-and-coming designers will receive free work and studio space, financial support business curriculum, mentorship, access to manufacturing and sales opportunities.

Designers will work out of a 7,500 sq. ft. space located in the area of Washington Avenue once known as “Shoe Street USA” for its role in manufacturing shoes which dates back to 1878.

“The six selected designers will have an opportunity to become part of a bigger mission: to bring the business of fashion back to downtown St. Louis, and to help revitalize the Garment District, which was once a robust and vibrant manufacturing center,” said Johnson in a statement.

“We are laser-focused as a community on helping entrepreneurs achieve success,” said Mayor Francis Slay in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming the first group of entrepreneurs to the fashion incubator and to St. Louis and know that their successes will not only bring more jobs and creative talent; but, they will also help our City continue to grow as an innovation hub as we attract and retain creators and companies to our region.”

Meet the designers: 

  • Donald Charles Smith Brame II (Smith II), Dallas, TX
  • Agnes Hamerlik (Hamerlik), Chicago, IL
  • Emily Koplar (Wai Ming), St. Louis, MO
  • Allison Mitchell (Allison Mitchell), Dallas, TX
  • Audra Noyes (AUDRA), New York, NY and Wilmington, DE
  • Reuben Reuel Riddick (Demestik by Reuben Reuel), Brooklyn, NY

For more on the first class and the St. Louis Fashion Fund, visit