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CFDA and Cadillac to Launch Retail Lab Program in July

E-commerce has proven itself to be a great way for brands and retailers to test the waters in new markets before introducing a full-fledged brick-and-mortar presence. But what if newcomers could dive straight into the world of offline retail, armed with the knowledge of what will and won’t work? That’s the aim of a new mentorship program announced Monday by the CFDA and luxury auto brand Cadillac.

Dubbed The Retail Lab, it will offer select designers the chance to open a temporary store in one of Manhattan’s trendiest shopping locales, under the tutelage of a more established peer.

Not only is Cadillac funding the program, the rotating retail space will be located on the ground floor of the company’s global headquarters at 330 Hudson Street in New York’s SoHo neighorhood, where it will also cover the cost of display units, mannequins, signage and a point-of-sale system. Plus, each designer will be provided with a $75,000 grant to put toward wholesale buyers, sales support and marketing.

“Our ongoing partnership with the CFDA represents Cadillac’s unwavering commitment to the fashion community and its growth,” Melody Lee, director of brand strategy and planning at Cadillac, said in a statement. “Retail Lab will give designers a space in the heart of Cadillac’s headquarters, along with the tools, training and inspiration to take their business to the next level.”

“The CFDA is always looking for meaningful programs that help strengthen the impact of American fashion,” Steven Kolb, president and CEO of the CFDA, offered. “Every designer aspires to a freestanding retail experience that allows them to tell their brand story and connect directly with consumers. Cadillac’s commitment to the industry will help the selected designers make this a reality.”

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First up: preppy men’s and women’s line Timo Weiland will set up shop in the space for three months, beginning in July.

Other interested designers are invited to apply online from now until May 6, after which five more will be chosen for the remainder of the 2016/2017 term by an advisory board of experts, including Billy Reid, Steven Alan and Marigay McKee, to name just three.

All applicants must meet the following criteria:

• American citizen, or has established a primary design business in the U.S.
• Minimum of three years in business.
• Demonstrable talent through letters of reference and editorial coverage.
• Have orders from notable wholesale retailers.
• Verifiable sales growth during their time in business.
• Does not have currently have their own retail shop or location.
• Ability to occupy The Retail Lab space for a three month period, as well as produce or provide inventory for store.