Mentors help young designers realize potential

John Donne said "No man is an island." Nowhere is this phrase more relevant than in the fashion world. While the designer's name is on the label and he or she is the one walking the runway after the collection is shown, but a lot happened between the sketching pad and the presentation.

Of course every designer has a team behind him making things happen; everyone from seamstresses, PR, and marketing teams to family and emotional supporters. But designers need someone else in order to even get off the ground if they hope to make it in the industry: a mentor. In the fashion world, a mentor can take you from being a small designer with one or two collections that never really go anywhere, to being carried in Neiman Marcus.

Billy Reid, 2010 CFDA winner, for J.Crew

Billy Reid for J.Crew
Billy Reid for J.Crew

So how does a designer score an amazing mentor? While part of the process really is "who you know," the other part is having the energy and drive to do the legwork. Fashion awards like CFDA and MANGO award winners with mentors from the fashion industry. 2004 winner Proenza Schouler's design duo was mentored by the CEO of Burberry after being awarded 200,000 from CFDA, and has had tremendous success over the last seven years. Last year's winner Billy Ried's partnership with J.Crew turned into a small offshoot collection for the brand, in addition to mentoring. He was asked by J.Crew to take signature pieces from his collection that would fit seamlessly into the company's already established stores, which included a comfy fleece cardigan, a safari-style polo shirt and a unique chambray blazer.
Jack and Lazaro of Proenza
 Schouler: 2004 CFDA winners

Proeza Shouler: Resort 2012

But winning awards isn't the only way to find someone who will help your collection become a success. Companies like NL mentor our clients to assure that they're doing everything possible to achieve great things for themselves, and we've learned that sometimes it starts off with just believing in a designer's vision and abilities.