PRATT INSTITUTE’S NEW BROOKLYN FASHION + DESIGN ACCELERATOR AIMS TO GIVE LOCAL ARTISTS AND DESIGNERS A UNIQUE AND EARLY ADVANTAGE
This yearNYC was named the fashion capital of the world—the first time since 2010—but few might think that Kings County is responsible for the city’s top ranking.“Brooklyn is really the creative center right now,” Debera Johnson, Pratt Institute’s Academic Director of Sustainability and Executive Director of the Center for Sustainable Design Strategies, explained. “There’s so much access to so many tools to make it happen; there’s never been a more prime time to start a business, and specifically a design-based business.”Pratt is helping local artists to do just that, with the launch of its Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator at the end of October.Located on the seventh floor of South Williamsburg’s former Pfizer building, the accelerator will give Brooklyn-based design start-ups access to resources that can turn their ideas into viable businesses. “The designers are amazingly talented; they have wonderful ideas, but they don’t necessarily have the necessary business tools,” Johnson said.The BF+DA will be comprised of both individual as well as shared workspaces, maximizing and encouraging innovation and collaboration.
On-site features include 3-D printers, textile printers, digital fabrication services, and a sustainable material resource center. Selected candidates are also granted access to classes, mentorship, and business development and legal services. Public space is designated for use by lectures, conferences, performances…even runway shows.The accelerator comes on the heels of the success of the Pratt Design Incubator for Sustainable Innovation, another initiative Johnson spearheaded. The incubator, created for entrepreneurial Pratt alumni in 2002, has already spurred 30 new companies and 50 jobs in design-oriented fields.But the BF+DA differs somewhat from past Pratt projects and the many other, more technology-centric accelerators and incubators. The initiative involves moving projects comprehensively from small to large-scale production, and considers sustainability when doing so.
“We’re looking at and mentoring around ethical production, as well as environmentally-conscious materials and production methods,” said Johnson.Pratt expects great things from the accelerator, but hopes in time to expand its capacity, both in terms of space and enrollment, and even developing relationships with K-12 programs.“One of my main goals is to use this space as brilliantly as possible, and using it with a 21st century perspective,” Johnson said.
21,000-square-foot facility will accommodate 28 of the more than 150 companies that applied through Aug. 24. Johnson said in the future, Pratt would eventually have room and resources to accept 50 start-ups. All of the applicants are New York-based, and most reside in
Brooklyn.And now, more than ever, is the perfect time for a program like the BF+DA and supporting Brooklyn-based artists and their business endeavors, according to the academic director.“The way the world is looking at design and design products as well is much more open,” Johnson said, citing the popularity of online creative funding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Indeed, she offered that, while on the whole New York is the undeniable epicenter for fashion and design (“Part of New York City raises the bar compared to anything out there, it’s such a sophisticated place to be,” she explained), it is Brooklyn, specifically, where artists can do the most and the best work.“For me, I think we’re change-makers…a little bit fearless. There’s such a creative, design-savvy, risk-taking community,” she said. “It’s always been that way and it’s only becoming more so.”