After being selected from among numerous local fashion designers, Autumn Kietponglert, a Drexel University graduate, was welcomed by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter March 1 as one of five designers to enter Macy’s Philadelphia Fashion Incubator.
The Philadelphia Fashion Incubator, based on a similar program launched in Chicago that also partnered with Macy’s, is an initiative created to foster and grow emerging fashion designers by providing a workspace that can help them grow their brand.
“The City of Philadelphia, the Center City District, Macy’s and various institutions dedicated to fashion design came together. They were realizing that we had all of these amazing institutions, and all of this great talent is right here in our backyard,” Laura Krebs, the public relations representative of the Incubator, said. “We don’t want them to feel like they have to go to New York or they have to go to [Los Angeles] in order to really thrive in the fashion industry.”
“I think I hugged the director of the program,” Kietponglert said of the moment she found out she was selected to be part of the Fashion Incubator. “I was just ecstatic and really overwhelmed because it’s an incredible, incredible opportunity.”
According to Krebs, the designers are given business space, office tools, showrooms and conference rooms, and they must commit to spending a year working on the third floor of the Center City Macy’s completing a strict curriculum. Each designer is also matched with a mentor from a similar industry who guides her along the way throughout the year.
“Drexel was really great about making sure that we really knew how to use equipment and with giving us technical knowledge. They helped in hooking us up with professionals and encouraged us to participate in competitions,” Kietponglert said.
According to the Heartless Revival website, the line features womenswear and accessories inspired by Victorian style combined with the aesthetic of Tokyo or Harajuku street fashion.
“I originally would do one-of-a-kind haute couture made out of very unusual materials like zippers, leathers, silks and things like that,” Kietponglert said. “Now I’m opening with really more … ready-to-wear. It’s a lower price point, but it’s still a very great couture-inspired style.”
The designers in residence will have a show in Macy’s during the one-year program as well as the opportunity to participate in Philadelphia Fashion Week.
Kietponglert, who currently has a store called Us U.S. in Old City that she shares with six other designers, would like to open up her own store in Philadelphia after she completes the program.
Despite being successful in her career, the designer still has anxiety about the future.
“I mean, I feel like I still have those moments every day. It’s very challenging,” Kietponglert said. “You have to be very passionate about what you do just to, like, continue and keep pushing. It’s very … challenging, but it’s also very rewarding.”
Kietponglert’s Heartless Revival and Autumnlin Atelier merchandise will go on sale to Drexel students at the Design and Merchandising Kiosk in Nesbitt Hall starting March 12.