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Stateless Group Announces Incubator to Empower Diverse Talent in Fashion

Women's Wear Daily (WWD) logoWomen's Wear Daily (WWD) 1/18/2022 Alexandra Pastore
© Sergey Filimonov / Stocksy Unite

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Having extra time during the pandemic was the leading reason for starting a business during COVID-19, according to new data from Zapier. But new businesses continue to experience growing pains.

With the goal of helping mission-driven apparel start-ups overcome some of the most common of those pains, Stateless Group, the expert fashion design and development company that has launched more than 85 brands, is unveiling an incubator program for entrepreneurs.

“At Stateless, we aim to democratize the fashion landscape by supporting brands that make a positive impact,” said chief executive officer Stefanie Tacata. “Launching an incubator program is a natural next step and builds upon our mission to lower the barrier to entry for apparel start-up founders by providing access to the resources, network and niche expertise required to successfully launch a brand.”

The program’s goal is to democratize the fashion landscape where Stateless Group operates similarly to a record label for apparel, providing structure and support for emerging talent. Stateless will support two brands per cohort for one year with a structured program including services needed to bring apparel to market. Within the program’s model, founders will be able to streamline operations and save on the cost of hiring while mitigating risk.

According to Tacata, while small business owners have always faced insurmountable challenges breaking into the industry, the pandemic’s ripple effect has created even more challenges that need to be addressed.

“These challenges are foremost in the supply chain and sourcing,” said Tacata. “Small brands are already limited in factory partner options due to their need for small minimum order quantities, but they are now competing with more established brands for factory attention and priority. This ultimately means that lead times are longer for small brands. Reputable factories have grown more selective in which brands they choose and negotiations on cost and terms have become a bit more challenging. Small brands rely on stock available fabrics and trim to produce their lines since customizing fabrics is costly and MOQ-prohibitive.”

As supply chain and cargo issues have continued, Tacata told WWD she has seen options in stock-available materials decreasing while also increasing in cost — a huge issue since small business founders are typically limited by capital and network.

“Our cross-functional team has extensive experience in the corporate fashion industry, providing our clients with the overall expertise and access necessary for small brands to successfully launch and for established brands to successfully scale,” said Tacata. “Stateless stays ahead of industry-wide challenges while continuing to foster good relationships with reputable vendors and agencies so that our clients have the attention and priority they might not have on their own. We also consult along the way so our clients learn the ins and outs of product development and production. In these turbulent times, we know how to troubleshoot and pivot strategies so any new obstacle won’t prove fatal.”

At the same time, Tacata told WWD during the pandemic she has also seen emerging brands struggle as they place emphasis on wholesale as a strategy for building brand equity aiming to drive to its core direct-to-consumer business.

“This means they’re developing products with margins meant for d-to-c, but with a willingness to sacrifice those margins for the wholesale market. Due to the high barrier to entry for large retailers, emerging brands are increasingly working with hyper-local stores to reach a new market,” said Tacata. “Oftentimes these brick-and-mortar local retailers do not specialize in selling apparel, but have expanded their offerings as part of a post-pandemic recovery strategy.”

“Without a wide network of strategic and creative expertise and significant start-up capital, it’s extremely difficult to get an apparel brand off the ground,” said Tacata. “Our goal with the incubator is to lower this barrier to entry for entrepreneurs as much as possible. We want to give founders passionate about their missions a place to turn — a place where they have the opportunity to succeed and bring meaningful brands to market.”

At the same time, Tacata said the market saw notable changes in the last two years. While initially, Stateless Group saw a majority of emergent brands in the loungewear, activewear and outdoor space enter the market due to the lifestyle paradigm shift, in 2021 there was a shift to brands that aimed to anticipate the market needs of a post-pandemic world.

And looking at entrepreneurs, Tacata said: “There has been a trending emphasis on brand story, showcasing the founder’s own human experience through the product, attempts to differentiate through singular or small capsule-based innovative product, and apparel for travel. Moreover, a nod to eco-consciousness and sustainability has become the norm, and no longer a differentiating factor. As we court roughly 15 emergent apparel brands per week, we have a unique and special insight into how the market is shifting and how entrepreneurs are simultaneously guiding this shift and reacting to it.”

Notably, through its incubator program, Stateless will focus on collaborative experiences and services for growth. Selected incubator applicants will have access to the Stateless Group’s ecosystem of top-tier service providers, structured programs and network of resources to get their brands up and running.

Resources include brand and product design/development, production management, access to a global network of manufacturers, marketing, PR, business mentorship and capital strategy.

The incubator program includes a first-look deal with Neiman Marcus Group where members of the Neiman Marcus merchant team will be available to review an entrepreneur’s line and provide feedback.

Other partnerships include Investable for capital strategy, Squareshot for product photography, Forte for photo and video productions, Bella + Canvas for product support, Fifty Six for e-commerce and digital marketing and Small Girls PR for public relations.

Long term, the company’s vision is to build a diversified team of mission-driven brands that can fuel each other’s success and help evolve the fashion industry.

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