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Fashion Fund to leave its downtown space, hunt for new office

"We are very confident in the future of the Fashion Fund, but to stay in a huge building, not using the whole 7,500 square feet, didn't make sense."
Credit: SLBJ
The Saint Louis Fashion fund's headquarters

ST. LOUIS — The nonprofit Saint Louis Fashion Fund is poised to leave its Washington Avenue headquarters at the end of August as it looks for a smaller space in the garment district, or, if that's not possible, the city of St. Louis.

Two board members, Susan Sherman and Madeline Akins, said a reassessment of the organization's priorities began before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

The Fashion Fund had hosted a residency program, in which designers receive mentorship, education and free studio space and a stipend. That was later rebranded as a co-op. Eight local designers had been using the space, at 1533 Washington Ave., that's owned by an entity tied to Victor Alston of LuxLiving.

The Fund is discontinuing that program, noting that "fashion is moving away from the designer-incubator" model, Akins said.

And while it won't continue to run an incubator, the organization will help its existing residents find other spaces and will continue to support designers and attract production to St. Louis, she said. Sherman, for example, played a role last year in bringing a $5 million manufacturing facility to Grand Center.

"We are very confident in the future of the Fashion Fund, but to stay in a huge building, not using the whole 7,500 square feet, didn't make sense," Sherman said, adding that the pandemic also forced education programming in the building to cease. "That could be better spent on programming or supporting designers or the design community as a whole."

The organization, founded in 2014 to support the region's fashion industry, has long anchored the so-called garment district, but its lease is up at the end of August. Neighborhood nonprofit Downtown STL Inc. in 2018 put $100,000 toward planning for the area, bounded by Delmar Boulevard, Tucker Boulevard, St. Charles Street, North 15th Street, Olive Street, North 18th Street, Washington Avenue and Lucas Avenue. 

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