Meet The Six Designers Of The Saint Louis Fashion Incubator
Last week, a big announcement was made to celebrate “the inaugural six”—the first six emerging designers who will be the new class of the Saint Louis Fashion Incubator. SLFI is excited to welcome Donald Smith Brame II, Agnes Hamerlik, Emily Koplar, Allison Mitchell, Audra Noyes and Reueben Reuel Riddick to kick off the program, which will be based out of the Art Loft building at 1533 Washington Ave.
The two-year residency program will provide financial assistance, studio space, national and local mentorship, small-scale manufacturing and more, and is the first space of its kind to officially launch in the Midwest. The six designers, who come from diverse backgrounds and specialize in a variety of skills, will be making the move to St. Louis to grow their businesses, becoming a vital part of reviving the St. Louis Garment District.
Donald Smith Brame II
Donald Smith Brame II is a rising up-and-coming young designer originally from Harlem, New York now residing in Dallas, Texas. He is leading the art and fashion community in young generations both in his city and on an international stage. His diverse aesthetic vision is apparent in his luxury brand, “Smith II,” and his edgier, ready-to-wear brand, “S2 by Smith II,” a line for young fashionistas who are also influenced by fashion but still want to eat after acquiring it.
Donald Smith’s transition from a player in the NBA D-League to a model, and then to a designer showed him just how powerful following your dreams can be. He has walked in Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York, Miami, Berlin, London, Paris and Milan, experiences through which he saw one side of the industry. He has dressed fashion notables and celebrities such as Angela Simmons, Karrueche Tran, Zoe Kravitz, to name a few.
Agnes Hamerlik is an interdisciplinary artist and designer born in Poland. She got a Master’s Degree in European Literature, a BFA in Fashion Studies from Columbia College, and a number of apprenticeships with master craftsmen; she brings a variety of skills and life experience into her work.
Open to technological advances and multidisciplinary collaborations, Hamerlik is interested in forging new design synthesis, while still safeguarded by traditions. Intelligent design, dramatic silhouettes, complex luxury fabric manipulations, impeccable craftsmanship, unusual detailing, and elements of surprise define the collections of limited-edition pieces. She has collaborated with the Art Institute of Chicago and various prestige galleries to exhibit her work nationally.
Wai Ming, meaning “gift of light” in Chinese, is the given middle name of founder and designer Emily Brady Koplar. The designer—who divides her time between St. Louis and New York—has worked in the fashion industry for more than a decade but started designing and making clothes in her early childhood. She obtained a degree in Economics from Boston University before deciding to follow her true passion of fashion design and went on to earn a degree from Parsons School of Design.
Wai Ming launched in high-end specialty boutiques in 2012 and has continued to define its place in the contemporary design space with its clean, feminine-yet-graphic aesthetic, intricate design details, and thoughtfully versatile designs. Each piece from the collection is carefully crafted in the best factories of New York’s Garment District using luxurious fabrics from Italy and Japan, and has been featured in national media outlets including InStyle, Lucky Magazine, W, TeenVogue and more. The line has also gained celebrity fans in Taylor Swift, Emma Roberts, Carrie Underwood, Ellie Kemper, Lindsey Vonn, Katharine McPhee, Taryn Manning, Ashley Benson and Meagan Good.
Allison Mitchell Handbags
Allison Mitchell began her namesake label after the demand for her hand-made clutch went beyond friends and family to a buyer from a local luxury boutique. Her ability to move fast and capitalize on opportunity has, in only a couple of years, catapulted Allison Mitchell, LLC into a realm that would normally take several years to enter. Mitchell is the face, the creative drive, and the business acumen behind the Allison Mitchell label.
Allison Mitchell handbags are crafted from sustainably obtained animal skins and hides from around the world. Lined in seasonal picks from the designer, the minimalist brand offers a polished, deconstructed look that makes a statement with unique shapes and exceptional materials. Based in Dallas, Texas, all items are handmade in the United States, making them one-of-a-kind pieces.
After a childhood and early education in Delaware, Audra Danielle Noyes completed her Bachelor in Fine Arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2010, with a concentration in Fashion Design. She was awarded scholarships by Cotton Inc. and the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund, as well as selected for the Style Lab Mentorship with Zac Posen. Upon graduation, Noyes was personally recommended by André Leon Talley to train under the direction of Alber Elbaz at LANVIN.
After relocating to Paris to work with LANVIN, Noyes developed her skills under Elbaz, where she worked her way up through the design and production departments. Eventually Noyes moved to John Galliano in 2012, where she joined as an assistant designer. With a wealth of design experience that included couture pattern-making, draping and illustration, she was compelled to launch her own brand, AUDRA, in 2013, debuting her collection during Spring ‘14 Paris Fashion Week.
Since launching AUDRA and making New York City the base of the brand, the collection has been featured in the pages of Vogue Italy Talents, Vogue Japan, Vogue Mexico, W Magazine, L’Officiel, and Tatler Russia, and worn by cultural leaders and celebrities from across the globe.
Reueben Reuel Riddick
Domestik by Reuben Reuel
Reuben Reuel, creative director and designer of Demestik by Reuben Reuel, found his love for fashion and style while growing up in his hometown of Virginia Beach, Virginia. His grandmother, a skilled seamstress with impeccable taste and flamboyant style, served as his primary influence and inspiration. She was the reason he decided to enroll at the Virginia Beach Tech Center where he began to hone his skills in fashion design. Upon completion, he attended Norfolk State University and later moved to NYC in 2007 to attend the Art Institute of New York City.
In 2012, Reuel decided to venture out on his own and create garments with a focused aesthetic. Taking a less conventional approach, he partnered with Etsy.com to sell his products. This allowed him to formulate a case study of the type of women that are interested in his garments and the ability to sell direct to consumer worldwide.
For more information about the Saint Louis Fashion Incubator, visit their website and follow along @stlfashionfund.