Fashion competitions are immensely popular, but for the most part they aren’t anything new. Over the past decade, one can point to any number of incubators, grants, apprenticeships and yes, reality shows, dedicated to helping fashion’s most talented circumvent financial disadvantage to focus on design. Such programs have helped launch or significantly further the careers of designers like Alexander Wang (recipient of three six-figure CFDA awards), Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs of Cushnie et Ochs (recipient of a sizable Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation grant) and Chris March (a Project Runway finalist who, among other notable accomplishments, designed Meryl Streep’s 2010 Oscars gown). But there is more to fashion than just the designers.


Take retailers, for example. Without a Barneys, without a Net-a-Porter, without an independent neighborhood boutique, where would fashion’s most talented showcase and sell their collections? In an exorbitantly expensive city like New York, retail entrepreneurship is no small risk; with space dwindling and rents always on the rise, even that first step can be insurmountable for those whose pockets aren’t already lined with investor money. Thanks to a new endeavor, Project Pop-Up NYC, headed by  New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s New York City Economic Development Corporation and STORY, a unique concept shop launched by entrepreneur Rachel Shechtman earlier this year, this could all change for up to three deserving businesspeople. A component of Bloomberg’s Fashion.NYC.2020 plan–a six-part initiative born out of a 2009 city-sponsored study to boost Manhattan’s fashion industry–Project Pop-Up NYC is a competition that aims “to promote innovative retail and technology businesses.”


Among the prizes for the winning applicants (all of whom must be NYC-based, existing fashion retailers and/or part of a fashion-related technology company for at least 12 months): free retail space on STORY’s Chelsea-based premises for a temporary pop-up shop, PR/marketing support, and business mentoring. For maximum exposure and revenue potential, the pop-up shop’s duration will coincide with this September’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Choosing the winners won’t be easy, even for Project Pop-Up’s fashion-insider judges, some of whom include veteran designer Norma Kamali, Lucky Magazine Editor in Chief Brandon Holley, and Bonobos CEO Andy Dunn.


To get more information about Project Pop-Up NYC, or to apply, visit the organization’s official website. Applications will be accepted through July 30th.


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