Designers Make It Work: Philadelphia Fashion Incubator Produces Global Fashion Pioneers

From casual to couture, the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator has ingrained an international fashion consciousness within the cultural fabric swathing Philadelphia. Now in its eighth year, the Incubator’s newest batch of designers have found their niche on the runway by seeking to maximize the accessibility of fashion itself. 

The Philadelphia Fashion Incubator was launched in 2012 as a collaboration between Philadelphia, Macy’s and the Center City District with the goal of providing local designers with the resources and experimental freedom to galvanize their careers. In particular, the blueprints for the Incubator emulated the reality show Project Runway as well as similar programs around the country, such as the flagship Chicago Fashion Incubator. At the time, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter hoped that the Incubator would help the city to become an epicenter of fashion innovation, which would ultimately encourage high-end luxury brands to lay roots throughout the city. In its eight years of operation, the Incubator has produced 35 designers who have each embodied the program’s innovative spirit. Of these designers, many have gone on to produce projects of national and international merit. For example, 2018 alumna Renee Hill competed on the seventeenth season of Project Runway after finishing her stint with the Incubator, while 2017 alumna Amy Voloshin’s work with Printfresh recently appeared in the January issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.

And this year’s batch of designers are just as impressive. Julia Turner Lowe has championed fashion as a platform for women’s empowerment through her modern plus size brand JTL Designs, which uses “luxurious fabrics and sleek silhouettes to accent a woman’s body” according to her website description. Allison Pearce’s background in costume design has paved the foundation of her brand Pearce, which uses natural fabrics to create comfortable, breathable clothes without sacrificing a sleek silhouette. Known for his evening gowns, Prajjé Oscar Jean-Baptiste’s brand Prajje Oscar honors his Haitian roots, with his elegant pieces promoting Haiti’s beauty and vibrancy. Shelby Donnelly’s brand Wear to Wall features custom evening and bridal wear with artistic flairs that speak to human nature and spirituality. Featuring highly efficient fastening technology, Nancy Connor developed her brand Smart Adaptive Clothing as a way to provide people with disabilities as well as caregivers with stylish yet accessible fashion options. Last but not least, Victoria Kageni-Woodard’s brand Gusa By Victoria uses African inspired textiles to create timeless designs for the modern woman on the global stage. 

Anyone interested in learning more about this year’s designers and the innovative progress the Incubator has made within the global fashion community can visit their website here.


Photo credit: Philadelphia Fashion Incubator, JTL Designs

Article by Amelia Winger on behalf of Global Philadelphia Association