On Wednesday, June 5, FIT wrapped its seventh annual Design Entrepreneurs program. Twelve designer finalists presented business plans to a panel of industry executives including Tommy Hilfiger and Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger; Morris Goldfarb, CEO of G-III; Adrienne Lazarus, CEO of Bandier; Thomas Ott, Saks Off Fifth and Gilt chief merchant, and Henri Zirpolo, Rag & Bone senior designer.
Fiona Morrison of Wolf Circus took home the $100,000 grand prize to grow her business, a line of sustainable demi-fine jewelry created and run by women. Nora Gardner and her namesake brand was awarded the Israel Goldgrub Award with a $50,000 prize. Her presentation focused on how her women’s suiting fills a need for the growing population of rising female executives.
Notably, this was the first time all finalists were women, signaling change for an industry where higher-level positions are dominated by men.
FIT Design Entrepreneurs is a “mini MBA program” that includes a series of specialized workshops, learning intensives, mentorship opportunities from leading fashion industry professionals, and networking salons to help entrepreneurial emerging designers learn how to develop effective business plans and strategies in order to help ensure the future success of their lines.
Opening remarks were made by Jeanette Nostra, president of G-III Apparel Group, which has remained a founding sponsor since the program’s inception.
Tommy Hilfiger presented the awards, stating, “It’s been very difficult deliberating, all of us thought that everyone who presented was best in class, amazing.”