In the golden glow of the restaurant Verōnika, Vogue and Goldman Sachs Private Wealth Management gathered three pioneering designers for an insightful conversation that underscored the importance of community and mentorship early in one’s career. The stories of Rosie Assoulin, Carly Cushnie, and Jacques Agbobly each reflect the strength and tenacity of the American fashion design community today. Inspiration and information began to unfold as soon as Olivia Douglas, Global Head of Marketing for Wealth Management at Goldman Sachs, introduced the design talent along with Vogue market editor Naomi Elizée.
“In addition to learning about each designer’s creative process and the stories behind their brands, tonight’s discussion will touch on the remarkable influence fashion design funds have had on the next generation of young designers, helping each to maximize their impact in the fashion industry,” Douglas said. Fashion design funds award emerging American designers a monetary sum and, oftentimes, pivotal business mentorship. They can be a career-turning point for many designers—including two on the panel.
Agbobly, a knitwear designer born in Togo, West Africa, but raised in Chicago, founded the brand Black Boy Knits in the height of the pandemic to address a lack of jobs in the industry. With the assistance of a professor, Agbobly found studio space and began to knit. “I made everything myself that first year,” they said. “I made something like 300 sweaters.” Friends and social media followers began to ask about the sweaters. Soon after, Agbobly applied for a fashion design fund.
“I knew it was a rite of passage for emerging brands,” they said. In 2022, Agbobly was a fashion design fund finalist and the award allowed them to transform a DIY brand into an eponymous label. “Through the fashion fund,” they said, “I started to see myself reflected in the industry, then I started to make a space for myself.”
Cushnie founded her eponymous label in 2008 upon graduation from design school . With her debut collection, she sought to strike “the perfect balance of tailored and fluid women’s clothing,” she explained. When a high-end department store took notice of that first collection, it allowed the clean, contemporary brand to grow from the start.
In 2011, Cushnie was a fashion design fund finalist. “At the time, no brand was using social media Designers relied on magazines, editorials, and celebrities to get their brand out there,” she said. As such, “Receiving recognition that says ‘you’re really one of the ones to watch,’ it did a lot for the brand, especially when going to retailers.”
Assoulin’s path to her exuberant label differs from the others. The luxury womenswear designer’s experiences working at numerous fashion houses lent her inspiration—but was daunting, as well. “I thought I had to have all these things to start, like a full atelier and fabrics from all over the world,” she said. “And yet, at the same time, my experiences showed me that I just had to begin for myself.” The beloved Rosie Assoulin brand debuted in 2013 with a 2014 collection. This year, it celebrates its 10th anniversary.