Last week, I got to go to three events of Fashion Tech Week 2014, a week-long event sponsored by SFFAMA that celebrated the “convergence of fashion, technology and innovation” in San Francisco. This is my first out of three posts that will focus on each of the events I went to.

The first one I went to was Fashion Pitch Competition at Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) building at 55 Stockton St. on Tuesday, February 25, 2014. This first-ever fashion pitch competition was done under the banner of SF Fashion Lab, the “fashion incubator project for talented emerging designers.”

Five local emerging designers Maricella Olague, Leela Dhanya Gutta, Katie Campbell, Anubha Srivastav, and Alyssa Casares had 5 minutes each to present the design concepts behind their collection and their short-term and long-term business goals to a panel of judges. The panel included Geetika Gupta (Academic Art Director, School of Fashion, The Art Institute of California – San Francisco), Gwendolyn Wright (from The Wright Consultants), Michael Rosen (London Fashion Week Founder & Professor, The Art Institute of California – San Francisco), and Liz Rossof (Content Producer, Betabrand). The judges then had 5 minutes to give feedback. At the end of the evening, they chose one overall winner, as well as one more designer to work with Betabrand to develop and sell one of her creations to the public!

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Aside from seeing “The Fashion Fund” series, I hadn’t seen fashion designers pitched their collection and describe their business goals. Therefore it was a delight seeing these five local San Francisco designers did this and received very valuable feedback and suggestions to help propelling their fashion career and business forward.

The first designer up was Maricella Olague, accompanied by her two models. She’s currently a Fashion Design student at Academy of Art University San Francisco (AAU) and is known for her arty one-off, custom design concepts. (Trivia: she’s great at math!) She has shown her collection at San Francisco Fashion Week (SFFW) as well as events like the Stylematic app launch party. She’s looking forward to finish school, and would like to work in New York or Milan.

Maricella was very elaborate in explaining about her design aesthetics and concepts, so it was almost expected when the judges asked her about her her target market (who are the women she’s envisioning to wear her creations) as well as distribution channels (such as where she sees her designs are being sold at).

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Leela Dhanya Gutta was next. She has computer science & engineering background before she’s going to AAU to study fashion design. Her target market is independent women who love fashion; metropolitan women who are always on the go. Her design aesthetics are bold, feminine, and romantic, and the retail price point discussed reflected that.

Moreover, she would like to have an eCommerce shop to sell her designs and support it with social media marketing. She’s working with Nifty to offer personalized measurements for custom fit (customers will also be able to choose the generic S,M,L sizes). Leela’s fabrics are printed in India, and her signature print is the light bulbs pattern in several different colors, a symbol of a strong and big idea.

The judges were generally very impressed with her business planning. With 1.5 year until graduation, she seemed to have her plan figured out to pursue her ultimate goal of becoming a global brand for the target market she described earlier. One thing that they pointed out was suggesting her to relax a bit and focus more on what works and what doesn’t in her designs.

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Katie Campbell and her three models presented looks from Katie’s Equinox line. A SFSU graduate, Katie designs for women who are active, progressive, and ambitious. Her designs exudes that high fashion feel, strong and minimalistic.

I found Katie very adorable when she honestly admitted that she’s not too good at sewing (“Don’t look at the insides [of the garments]!” she said). Moreover, the long black coverup made of curtain fabric is low maintenance and doesn’t need to be washed. Isn’t it great for the California drought situation we are in, she said. I love her.

She presented a relatively low retail price point, which the judges questioned after seeing her high-fashion feel. After Katie expressed that she feels her designs relate to the likes of All Saints and Theory, the judges suggested her to do more high-fashion targeting, business-wise.

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Like Maricella and Leela, I also saw Anubha Srivastav’s designs during Stylematic app launch party. Anuba has already gotten her company structure figured out: sampling and manufacturing factory in India; marketing and sales in the US. She’s working with various clients in US and India; she is one of the featured designers on Nifty.

She has a future concept of separating her brand into three different lines (high-end designer, bridge, and moderate categories). She designs for the strong, bold, confident women of today, and her signature fabric is khadi, a hand-spun and hand-woven organic cotton. However, its challenge revolves around the fabric bleeding and maintenance.

The judges questioned her plan to diffuse her lines so early in the game. They suggested her to focus on her main brand and sell her garments that would normally fall in her lower lines with higher price.

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Last but not least, it’s Alyssa Casares’s turn. Not a stranger to SF Fashion community (she’s shown at SFFW since 2010), this FIDM graduate is known for her feminine, youthful designs for women who appreciates details and are not afraid to take risk. At the beginning of her presentation, she showed the lookbook video from her Alyssa Nicole website (go see it if you haven’t; Fort Point never looks so ethereal).

She’s currently looking to relaunch her Alyssa Nicole brand to be a more mature brand. As her clientele grows, her designs also get to be more grown-up. It’s a departure from the young bubble dresses image that she’s known for so far. Her garments are hand-crafted and made-to-order, and I have to say they are GORGEOUS. The judges wish her the best in reaching her goals of owning her own design studio and continue doing custom design. They especially applaud her for continue to evolving herself as a fashion designer.

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After a short break, it’s announced that Leela Dhanya Gutta is the overall winner, whereas Katie Campbell will work with BetaBrand ThinkTank to produce and sell her vest dress to the public.

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I learnt a lot from this first ever Fashion Pitch Competition. What a wonderful opportunity for the fashion designers to get an abundance of great feedback and advice, as well as tremendous networking opportunities. I highly recommend local emerging fashion designers to participate in the future events of Fashion Pitch Competition to run through their design aesthetics and business plans with professionals who are already working in the fashion industry.

Thank you again Owen Geronimo of SFFAMA for inviting me to this event, and thank you all for reading!

Below is the whole album if you’d like to browse through all the pictures I took in this Fashion Pitch Competition event:

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Until next time,

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