International program targets fashion start-ups as couture segment struggles

Australian fashion start-ups are being encouraged to apply for a new mentorship program, which includes internships at major fashion houses and access to the most prestigious industry events.


Fashion Future, led by Pamela Trantalles, describes itself as a fashion business consultancy, with a focus on building and strengthening entrepreneurship and innovation in the industry.


Trantalles says she saw a need to create a platform where emerging fashion designers could connect with, and be supported by, leading designers and industry professionals.


This led to the launch of the International Mentor Program, which kicks off in 2012, offering 20 emerging talents access to major industry players and events in Europe and the United States.


“I have spent the last 12 months liaising and negotiating with the world’s leading designers, fashion houses and retailers to develop [the] International Mentor Program,” Trantalles says.


The program includes the following:


  • 10 internships at Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Diane Von Furstenberg, Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Herve Leger, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tom Ford and Viktor & Rolf.
  • 10 VIP experiences at New York Fashion Week, London Fashion Week and a Paris trade event, including flights and accommodation.
  • Designer collaboration at Sportsgirl.
  • Paid internships at cosmetics company Jurlique.


Trantalles says the idea of the program is for designers to gain “an amazing experience” so they can make more informed decisions about what they do.


“They can bring [that experience] back here to build strong business infrastructure,” she says.


Trantalles says she founded Fashion Future to help creative talents manage the business end of their operations.


“In the corporate world, I saw a lot of emerging talent but if you don’t nurture it, you fail to tap into some amazing creativity in the fashion industry,” she says.


“For anyone to start a business, it is very hard. But for creative talent, they’re so focused on producing amazing collections that they’re often not that interested [in the business aspect].”


“[Fashion Future] is about raising the bar on the business side of the fashion industry. You can have an amazing talent but your business must be financially sustainable.”


The Fashion Future advisory board features the likes of Australian designer Alex Perry, David Bush from David Jones, and Marie Claire editor Jackie Frank.


Trantalles says she launched the program on an international scale because so many Australian fashion start-ups are influenced by overseas markets from the get-go.


“The majority of production is done offshore. If you do 80% of your production in Australia, there are government subsidies, so there is some good support but it’s a catch-22,” she says.


“With some of these grants, you need to be earning a minimum of $100,000, which doesn’t sound like much – unless you’re a start-up.”


“There are also certain skills shortages [affecting the industry] and the cost is prohibiting, so many start-ups send their designs to Asia.”


Trantalles says while the local fashion industry continues to grow, fashion is a luxury and is therefore under pressure in the current economic climate.


“For young designers, who spend a lot of time on their creations, if it’s high end, it’s really tough at the moment,” she says.


“If they’re mainstream, they might consider working for others until the economy is a bit more stable.”


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