Fashion Incubator SF

Fashion Incubator San Francisco

Fashion Incubator San Francisco (FISF) is a non-profit organization that provides education, workspace, technical support and mentoring to aspiring fashion designers.  The mission of FISF is to develop creative fashion apparel designers into successful San Francisco entrepreneurs and future employers. We believe the graduates of FISF can make significant contributions to our economy through employment opportunities in designing, manufacturing and selling fashion apparel. FISF serves as an incubator for promising new designers and provides them with the tools, resources and education necessary to develop successful local businesses.

FISF is a 501 (c) (3) incorporated in May 2011. The program opened in March 2012. In a region known for nurturing new ventures, Fashion Incubator San Francisco is the first business incubator in the Bay Area focused on the fashion apparel industry. Twenty years ago, apparel manufacturing was the second-largest industry in San Francisco, behind tourism.  In 1990, San Francisco was the third largest apparel producer in the nation, behind New York and Los Angeles. Much of the talent and many of the businesses have disappeared; along with them went the infrastructure for supporting up-and-coming designers. San Francisco has seen an increase in design companies and has a good foundation of skilled apparel manufacturers. FISF was formed to nurture local fashion designers so they can establish thriving apparel businesses and create employment opportunities in San Francisco.

Our services include:  1) Weekly classes taught by educators, business and fashion/design professionals and industry experts. FISF provides curriculum for the Designers in Residence (DIR) that includes business operations, marketing and sales, developing business plans, and apparel manufacturing, including costing, sourcing and production;  2) A state-of-the art workroom with the  necessary equipment for producing apparel where the DIR are guided in the design and production process, learning skills like pattern making and garment fitting;  3) Networking opportunities with other designers, manufacturers and leaders in the fashion and business communities who support the entrepreneurs in their goal to start businesses.

FISF provides an educational and training platform for the benefit of individual participating students, which leads to the beneficial development of the fashion and design community and job market in San Francisco. The impact of one new apparel business has a multiplier effect of 19 positions in the business community; from business development/financial services, to production, to packing and shipping. Currently FISF has the capacity to nurture six designers per year leading to the creation of six new businesses, resulting in new workforce development and/or increased business for 114 people.

FISF has begun a series of monthly Community Seminar Programs to expand relationships in the design and manufacturing community. The first seminar had more than 75 attendees. These ongoing events have the ability to reach almost 1000 people in San Francisco.  FISF is also aligned with the fashion/design schools located in San Francisco, including The Art Institute, Academy of Art, California College of the Arts (CCA), City College of San Francisco (CCSF), the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) and San Francisco State. FISF has provided tours of the facility for several hundred students.

A mentorship network of attorneys, finance partners including banks, accounting and the Small Business Administration (SBA), educators at CCA, CCSF, Academy of Art, The Art Institute, San Francisco State and FIDM is already in place at FISF. Marketing, Public/Media Relations and Sourcing/Production relationships are also in place. The DIR are supported by these communities for a minimal cost of a monthly fee of $400. As the inaugural class graduates in February 2013, an active alumni program will begin, allowing former DIR to access support and in turn, provide mentoring and support to the incoming DIR. The alumni group will also provide data on the program.

Supported by a Board of Directors with deep roots in San Francisco and led by an Executive Director with more than thirty years of experience in apparel design and manufacturing in San Francisco, FISF is positioned for success. Strong relationships with educators and the business and design communities provide resources and mentoring for the Designers in Residence. FISF is committed to supporting apparel designers create, build and grow businesses in San Francisco.

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