Night out at the St. Louis Fashion Fund

As I continue on my search for the best accompanying job to my up-and-coming side hustle launch, I am taking advantage of my time and attending many of the events around town and emerging myself in the innovative ecosystem that St. Louis has to offer.

This week I was lucky enough to snag a ticket (free!) to St. Louis Fashion Fund (SLFF) Creative Process event. For those of you who don’t know what the SLFF is, it is the breeding ground for fashion and wearable art in the heart of St. Louis. The incubator is home to six creators from around the nation who are provided with space and resources to take their designs and ideas to the next level through mentorship within the 2-year program.

It was my first time venturing into the Fashion Fund incubator and as I drove past it I was amazed by how gorgeous, sleek and inviting the space was. It was as if a little piece of New York had slipped into Wash Ave., and much to my surprise the majority of attendees were dressed the part. I will have to admit I must be hanging out in the less glamourous areas of town because I have honestly never seen people dress so fashionably walking around the streets of Clayton or the CWE, but I LOVED it. I found myself having to re-evaluate my upcoming birthday list to include much more risky and unique pieces to model around town.

            Once inside you could just feel the energy and excitement, there was definitely a strong bustle. My first stop was the Creative Brand table, where I learned all about this new organization founded by Simone Yael which connects creators with resources within the St. Louis community, whether it be space, marketing, videography or other resources, they’ve got you covered. I was further intrigued by the organization when I heard Simone pitch her organization to the crowd… but that comes later.

            Making my way around the space I was drawn to the large crowd near the back, as I approached, I realized that they were all surrounding a sewing machine! Taking a closer peek, I realized the artists were sewing up a storm… of portraits! They were awesome and even better, created in seconds! By the end of the event over half of the attendees had a recently sewn portrait of themselves proudly pinned on their attire. Portraits and insanely fast creations brought to us by Tucker Pierce at Westminster Press.

            As I made myself comfortable, I was lucky enough to snag a cube while noshing on some nibbles, the show began with a… you’ll never guess… fashion show! It was  a nice surprise as the models came out from within the crowd, sporting cameo/military style oversized jackets. The show was a great way to get the crowd excited and in the fashion mindset, it was like our own mini fashion show right here in St. Louis. Then the format was set, three pitches from three budding creatives making their mark in the community followed by questions.

            The Creative Brand was first to get the party started. The presentation was clear and inspiring with founder, Simone Yael, explaining the concept as a combination of guerilla marketing and other resources, to bring in those who are curious about an idea or process or just want some insight or inspiration, together. My favorite part of her pitch was when she got real with the audience. She was very open about her inspiration in “feeding the pulse of the city” and create a new St. Louis Renaissance. Her observation of how creatives started stemming up as (possibly) a reaction to city unrest, such as Ferguson, was something that I had never thought of, but makes sense. In a time when people are at odds, many strive to look internally and create new ideas, and inspire others for the common unity and growth of their community. The most resonating quote I will add to my repertoire of life mottos would be “be fluid”. Simone recommended that the crowd be like water, take on different forms, adapt to different situations, question how others would react or feel to certain acts or decisions made, which is something that, if you think about it would make many everyday interactions and acts end positively.

Much like a creator tries to think of their product from the consumer’s point of view, what will consumers find most useful about it, what is missing, what will they love, what might they hate? If we start to think of consumers as just regular people, the answers come more easily as we put ourselves in their shoes and fill their need, as they slowly become your own.

            The next pitch came from Susan Barrett, owner of Barrett Barrera Projects, a unique concept that provides artists with a gallery and resources to showcase their fashion and art presented in different mediums; with her latest study centered around the concept of hip hop. Being from a generation known for their love of music and its relatability, it was interesting to hear Susan’s thoughts on how everyone is somehow connected to hip hop, as it is so engrained in our culture and constantly changing.

The final pitch came from Angela LaRocca and Caryn Tomer of Your St. Louis, the forthcoming online show driven by social media participation. Being one who loves tweeting, posting and gramming, the concept of the show being driven by audience participation was exciting and intriguing, an “improv meets STL love story”.

The audience’s questions were by far the most captivating, when the founders were met with questions such as “what will you do if you don’t like the place you go to? Will it get a bad review? How will you deal with the controversies the city has created within itself?Tthey answered them with astute and confident grace. After all, the show itself will be live and unscripted, their reactions will have to be in real time and credible.

The concept has great potential to show the St. Louis people how great our city is and teach out-of-towners what a gem we have, especially during times when St. Louis is on the media map, sometimes for not the best reasons.

Overall, the event was a great experience. It further confirmed my inkling that St. Louis is becoming a hub for innovation and creativity, whether it be in tech, media and now fashion, St. Louis has a place for all creatives from all backgrounds. It would have been nice to hear from Tucker seeing that he is working on great things positively impacting the community and paper plates wouldn’t have hurt either but, I will definitely be attending more Fashion Fund events. (Conversations with fashion genius such as Judd Cane from Proenza Schouler is coming up in October.) All the activity happening in my own city amazes me and the constant inspiration that comes from it only gets me more and more excited about my own launch later this Fall (can it even be considered Fall with this 80-degree weather?). Now back to the drawing board for Collection #2!

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