You probably didn't know that Raleigh was an emerging fashion hub. I didn't either, and, to be frank, I'm supposed to know these things. You think the jeans, funny T-shirt, ball cap, and awful beard is an accident? I highlight the attributes, like a diamond in the rough.
On reflection though, it makes perfect sense, what with NC State's College of Textiles and College of Design and the Raleigh's nouveau-hipster downtown scene.
Why I remember it was only 10 years ago when Raleigh got its very first velvet rope. These days you gotta Jedi mind trick a guy with a clipboard just to get into the Glenwood Avenue Char-Grill.
Let me tell you, it's emerging.
About five years ago, I did a panel at Kenan-Flagler with Stephen Fraser from DIY fabric startup Spoonflower, and as they were just starting to sink heavy capital into their very own textile mill, I remember thinking at the time how innovative it was and wondering if and how it would succeed. Flash forward to 2011 and they were a CED Company to Watch winner.
We've also seen the emergence of socent-oriented (yeah, I just coined that term) collegiate apparel startup SchoolHouse and a few months ago at Carolina Challenge I met the team from Symbology, a socent-oriented (there it is again, it's taking off!) idea on its way through IndieGoGo.
Not to mention FashionSpark, Triangle Fashion Week, Redress Raleigh... and ExitEvent of course.
REDii, or Raleigh Emerging Designers Innovation Incubator, has a space in downtown Raleigh on Wilmington Street, wants to be to fashion as Triangle Startup Factory is to tech, launching brands, lines, and designers from its series of programs that cover both the creative and the business ends.
Jeff Tippett from Calvert Creative, the agency of record for REDii, told me that REDii did a comparative analysis of similar programs. Their research revealed programs in Chicago, SF, Seattle, Denver, Austin, and LA. All of them offered similar support through seminars and work space, but none of these programs have a boutique attached.
As a distinguishing factor, this street-level storefront affords the REDii designers the unique opportunity to test their products. The designers can hear directly from their consumers on everything from style to price point.
REDii has their launch party at the similarly chic Solas on Wednesday night, May 23rd. You can register here ($25 to get through the door, but no velvet rope to speak of).