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...AND INSTEAD SHAKES UP THE MARKET BY DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY" ~Sir Richard Branson
#BeDisruptive #RockTheBoat #BeDEFIant
The black sheep that's not for sale, not interested in being a part of your clique, nor are we interested in winning any popularity contests. For over a decade now, (DE-FI) Global INC, affectionately known simply as (DE-FI) and pronounced "defy" is an organization so influential in its practices, strategy, and proven results that it has reshaped how other regional fashion organizations across the world operate. #TheEvolutionOfDEFI continues unapologetically building on the legacy of the (DE-FI) brand's Crown Jewel, the Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator (DE-FI) who has long been recognized for its commitment to the growth and development of fashion based talent; and fostering a viable, nurturing, independent, and self-sustaining fashion community.
Our vigor has been a hub for innovation and creativity that has often been imitated yet our formula for success has never been duplicated. A first-of-its-kind one stop organization that re(DE-FI)nes what it means to put community first, live out your wildest dreams, and supporting the needs of emerging fashion talent as a whole at the same damn time. And it was done in one of the least likely cities you'd ever expect to find a successful and thriving fashion community...yet here we are in the Gem City of Dayton, OH making it happen while adding some Gems to the Queen City's crown in Cincinnati.
Comprised of accomplished fashion industry professionals, business owners, and community leaders, (DE-FI) Global INC is far from polished; we are not your stereotypical, posh, or face giving fashion organization. (DE-FI) Global INC is a privately held, self-funded Fashion Incubator owned and directed by Dayton,Ohio native, resident, and former model Caressa L. Brown. After working behind the scenes of NYFW and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week with the CFDA's volunteer team from 2013-2018, in 2021 Caressa was honored to become a founding member of the CFDA Connects Program, where she and Designer Alum Aceani Michelle sat on the Leadership Committee in the inaugural year and are current voting member of the CFDA Fashion Award's Guild. With a focus on removing barriers, particularly the financial barriers that prevent many from succeeding in the fashion industry, our work is inspired by the struggles that Caressa, faced in her one time promising career as a model.
Our programming supports aspiring and emerging fashion professionals through promotion, business support, resources and member privileges whose influence alone will amplify your mission as a designer; expand your reach as a brand; increase your awareness of the fashion industry; and strengthen your business connection, commerce, media, and trade in the American fashion industry and globally. We amplify influence and opportunities by promoting mentorship, entrepreneurship, collaboration, team building, community, and scholarship.
It's never business as usual for us and you'll never have the same experience twice. (DE-FI) Global INC's events and programming are tailor made to provide participants, contributors, and patrons alike a distinctive and captivating opportunity to witness tomorrow's fashion stars at the birth of their careers, follow them throughout the process, and at the culmination of their fashion career, you'll have the chance to say, "I knew them when...". So if we tell you to #RememberTheirName; believe us, take notes, sit back, and just watch. No other regional fashion organization has developed and produced the number of success stories as (DE-FI) Global INC, making the Southwest Ohio region The Fashion Capital for the development and success of fashion based talent across multiple disciplines.
With a focus on fashion, talent, media, and events, we develop and support individuals and their teams seeking a career in the fashion industry by connecting them to like-minded individuals and providing affordable access, resources, and opportunities to advance their careers. We are here to help you achieve your goals, however, before you apply to our Fashion Incubators in Dayton or Cincinnati, you also have to understand that, like everything else in life, success in the fashion industry:
1) IS HARD WORK
2) REQUIRES LONG HOURS
3) IS NOT FUN! (Yes, it has its moments, typically after an event/project is over and you can finally relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor, but that break is always short lived.)
4) IS NOT GLAMOROUS (Again, yes, it has its moments, but it's only about 5% of the industry.)
5) IS COMPETITIVE (Resources are limited, only the best of the best receive those resources. If you want to be the best, you'll need a competitive edge.)
6) IS SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
7) A CONSTANT LEARNING EXPERIENCE
8) WILL MAKE YOU CRY
9) WILL MAKE YOU DOUBT YOURSELF
10) IS A BUSINESS (...and a rewarding one at that.)
If you’re an aspiring or emerging fashion professional in the early startup phase that's looking for meaningful, experiential, and intentional opportunities, as well as courses, tools, and resources to grow your fashion brand, business, and skills, then then our platforms are for you! Dayton Fashion Week's Designer Incubator and the Cincinnati Fashion Incubator are highly competitive concept to completion, fashion retail, and fashion industry ready development programs. Only selecting high potential applicants, our incubators provides the tools needed to succeed and sustain growth through one-on-one education, access, and opportunities.
First Flight, Now Fashion is more than just our catchphrase...it is the runway that has led to 95% of our events and experiences being sold out and cleared the way for over one thousand careers in fashion to takeoff.
Models, Designers, supporters and (DE-FI) leaders participate in a Habitat For Humanity Build.
The term "The Fashion Pipeline" was coined by the Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator (DE-FI) in 2014 as a way of providing a visual context of how we operate, the work that we do and how our talent navigates or moves through that process from aspirational to professional and the networks that are leveraged along the way.
Yeah, we do a lot and because our incubators operate in stages, parts are of operations like Dayton Threads our boutique can be inactive fore extended periods of time. So, if you're a "Big Picture" person, it can be difficult to keep up with or have a full understanding of the work be done or ways that you can support talent in our Fashion Pipeline or to determine which one of our programs suites your goals best.
So here ya go, here's the Big Picture of how we make fashion based dreams come true:
In 2022, after participating in a professional development seminar led by fashion attorney Douglas Hand via CFDA Connects, we updated both our strategic plan and legal structure. (DE-FI) Global INC was formed to serve as the umbrella for the Fashion Pipeline. The Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator (DE-FI) LLC (Est. 2012) took over the administrative duties for (DE-FI) Global INC; the incubator duties were passed on to Dayton Fashion Week (Est. 2016) and The Cincinnati Fashion Incubator (Est.2023)
Both incubators use an entrepreneurial approach to fashion with individualized support, mentoring, community, collaboration, events, and resources to help designers develop both their businesses and their careers.
Both incubators pipeline programming includes:
The one-off in terms of The Fashion Pipeline programming is Fashion Week of Cincinnati (Est.2023) the capstone for The Cincinnati Fashion Incubator.
The affiliates are not intricately involved in the day-to-day operations of the incubators.
(DE-FI) Models (Est.2020) is a boutique modeling agency dedicated to scouting, developing, and placing models around the globe.
The Art of (DE-FI)ance (Est. 2014) is a tax exempt 501(C)(3) non-profit organization that supports fashion based talent, employers, and organizations.
The Fashion Institute of Ohio- (Est.2022) is coming soon! We've completed the curriculum and preparing to submit it to the State of Ohio for approval!
Started from the bottom, now we're here!
Here's the short list:
2. Saint Jesus
3. Saral Zens
4. Savage x Fenty
7. Michael Kors
9. When Smoke Clears
10. Marc Jacobs
11. J.C. Penny
13. Ulla Johnson
14. Calvin Klein
15. Milan Fashion Week
16. New York Fashion Week
17. Paris Fashion Week
18. Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
19. InStyle Magazine
20. Vogue Magazine
21. Vogue Italia
22. Ebony Magazine
23. Ellements Magazine
24. Shape magazine
26. Kent State
27. UC DAAP
29. Ross Dress for Less
30. L Brands
31. Forbes Under 30 Fellows
32. The Grammy's
33. The Oscars
34. The Tribeca Film Festival
40. Art Hearts Fashion
41. Council of Fashion Designers of America
42. Samuel Adams
44. Women's Wear Daily
46. White House Black Market
48. Harper's Bazaar
49. Under Armor
50. The Rockettes
Before we even get into the creative aspects and business of fashion, our unorthodoxed approach starts with foundation building to ensure that our talent is equipped with the tools needed to navigate the not so pretty side of the fashion industry. It takes more than talent and looks to be successful in fashion, therefore, we start our talent off in our incubators by focusing on developing and/or fine tuning the following areas:
Please note that the designer incubator is NOT an accelerator program. Not only do we not do fast fashion, we also do not rush the development of our talent either, many of whom only came to us with nothing more than a dream. We often work with raw talent who has never used a sewing machine and have no business experience; so it's about a 2.5 year process with Stage 1 lasting a full year, stages 2-6 lasting roughly 90 days each, and stage 7 ongoing as needed.
Our Fashion Incubators are a real-time fashion experience; we are the only fashion organization that develops our talent from the ground up with a proven track record of success.
Our talent will navigate Incubators in 7 stages.
Stage 1: Foundation Building
This is where our designers work on developing and refining their goals and personal assessments; this will be the most difficult stage for the designers because it's very, introspective and requires long looks in the mirror and having uncomfortable conversations with self, family, and friends.
Stage 1 is also where our designers start developing and perfecting their skills. They'll begin learning the art of storytelling and producing vlogs chronicling their journey in fashion and will write blogs for our (Parenthetically) Speaking newsletter. We will be pushing them out of their comfort zone.
Stage 2: Team Building
A real-time experience that reactivates The House of (DE-FI)ance: A Fashion & Design Co-working Experience with its return, marks the return of Our House's signature experiences including The Build-A-Brand Experience, Brain Dayton, The Business Club's Edible Edification Experience, and The Dreamforce.
The return of the House of (DE-FI)ance also marks the reactivation of the Associate Incubator. The fashion experience within our incubators are not just for designers, it's also for photographers, models, business professionals, makeup artists, pattern makers, stylists, illustrators, videographers, fashion show producers, writers, sewists, tailors, bespoke, textile makers, and more.
Team and brand building are the keys to success for the designers in our incubator. Our mission is to provide consistent opportunities for Business to Business, Business to Customer,Customer to Business referrals, and more to nourish relationships that form naturally. Our House helps to foster and create meaningful relationships among our members because member introductions and one on one meetings offer unique opportunities to share who we are and how we can benefit one another.
The Associate Incubator members are all needed as a part of the process. Applications are accepted and reviewed year round. By bringing the fashion community together, Our House serves as a resource that provides fashion and the business of fashion talent with educational tools, research, resources, and programming to help further their growth and development.
Stage 3: Strategic Planning
Each stage in our incubators builds on the previous stages, and Stage 3 is all about Strategic Planning, helping our designers (DE-FI)ne their target market, build partnerships, find compatible, investors, budget planning, planning their lines, developing marketing plans. The designers will also be introduced to CLO and start hosting small events
Stage 4: Behind the Seams
By Stage 4 of the incubator, our designer's lines should be in full production and their teams should be in place. They're testing their target markets with Dayton Threads and promoting their work in preparation for A Weekend of (DE-FI)ance's Shoot Your Shot Pitch Competition to headline Dayton Fashion Week.
During Stage 4, the designers will be introduced to the glitz and glamorous aspects of the fashion industry. They'll begin planning their editorial photoshoots for (DE-FI)ance Magazine hold model casting calls, start selling their line in Dayton Threads.
Stage 5: The Blitz
It's showtime, folks! It's go big or go home! It's put up or shut up! Everything that our designers have been busting their butts for is going to be put to the test. The Blitz will be a fast-paced and concerted effort by our designers and their teams to show that they are industry ready. The designers will pitch their lines at Shoot Your Shot during A Weekend of (DE-FI)ance to headline either the Dayton Fashion Week or Fashion Week of Cincinnati's Runway Experience. After that, it's a full court press to get ready for Stage 6.
Stage 6: The Collections
Stage 6 is pretty straightforward; it's the count down to the Runway Collections.
Stage 7: Continued Professional Development and Career Support System
If you haven't noticed, we don't have a show heavy focus. Yes runway shows can be fun but what happens next? How do you manage and scale for your growth as a designer and/or brand. We aren't gonna leave you hanging after the show, we are going to help you find the resources that you need to meet the demands of your customers.
We're glad you asked! Beyond the glitz and glamor, the fashion industry is a Top 5 employer in the U.S. and is a $900 Billion dollar a year industry, Columbus and Cleveland have all benefited from the fashion industry. Why not Dayton and Cincinnati? From having headquarters of top fashion brands call their cities home to manufacturing internationally recognized brands.
According to the 2020 census, the median household income in Dayton was $32,540 for Cincinnati it's $45,235; 30% of Dayton's residents live in poverty, for Cincinnati it's 24.7%; and out of 248 cities in Ohio, Dayton ranks 12th for childhood poverty, Cincinnati is ranked 28th; Montgomery County ranks 19th out of 88 counties for childhood poverty, Hamilton County was in the top 1/3. Our communities could really use better paying jobs and a more diverse economy.
While producing world class talent has been the pinnacle of our success, growing Dayton's market to benefit from the economic powerhouse that is the Fashion Industry has been met with challenges. Most notably the lack of support from our local government and government agencies. The governments of Midwest cities like Columbus and St. Louis are actively working to retain their fashion based talent; the St. Louis government is paying $50,000 for designers to move to St. Louis; Columbus has invested over a half a million dollars to retain fashion designers in their city since 2020.
In 10 years, we've had zero support, backing, or acknowledgement from the City of Dayton or Montgomery County and it's not due to a lack of trying on our end. The fashion industry presents immense opportunities for investing in garment manufacturing; one of (DE-FI) Global INC's longest held goals has been and still is to bring garment manufacturing to the Dayton and Miami Valley areas. Did you know that garment manufacturing requires less capital intensive with high investment to turnover ratio? The output of U.S. textile manufacturing (measured by value added) totaled $18.79 billion in 2019.
According to U.S. Joint Economic Committee, the U.S. apparel manufacturing industry employs more than 144,000 people. While occupations such as sewing machine operators, tailors, and textile machine operators still earn lower wages; higher paying garment manufacturing occupations such as market research analysts and marketing specialists earn an average of $59,750 annually, garment manufacturing computer based professionals earn $67,110/yr., and other production stages such as fabric and apparel pattern-makers earn an average of $53,800 annually.
According to Indeed the top paying jobs and careers in the fashion industry are:
1) Design Director, $136,685/yr
2) Creative Director, $109,013/yr
3) Product Manager, $106,480/yr
4) Sourcing Manager, $94,485/yr
5) Art Director, $76,447/yr
6) Brand Manager, $72,453/yr
7) Marketing Manager, $71,618/yr
8) E-Commerce, $68,794/yr
9) Account Executive, $68,516/yr
10) Editor-in-Chief, $64,205/yr
11) PR Manager, $62,039/yr
12) Buyer, $59,700/yr
13) Merchandising Manager, $58,093/yr
14) Fashion Designer, $43,056/yr
15) Wardrobe Stylist, $29, 419/yr
What's that saying? "You either win with us, or you watch us win."
When we launched in 2013, we wanted everybody to be a witness to the newest city experiencing the evolution of emerging fashion. Our goal was to serve as a springboard for Dayton area talent to connect with other fashion weeks and opportunities across the country.
However, making that connection wasn't as easy as we had hoped and found that those other outlets weren't interested in sharing the spotlight. Locally, we found ourselves being dismissed, ignored, blocked, mitigated, gate-kept, and even sabotaged by the various small business owners, local government agencies, even community leaders who were uncomfortable with our rapid success, continued growth, outside the box operations, refusal to conform, and our in your face (DE-FI)ant attitude. So, we gathered our supplies, built our own platform and blazed a path and legacy of our own that those who tried to stop us and/or refused to acknowledge us, now duplicate or copy and paste directly from our blueprint.
For over a decade the self-funded (DE-FI) Global INC has transformed into a gate busting, door holding, accepts you as you are and where you are kind of organization that has built a solid reputation for developing world class talent and producing uniquely immersive fashion experiences with a style that is raw, in your face, open, honest, transparent, and (DE-FI)ant. A style that paved the way for fashion professionals to live out their dreams throughout various stages of life.
In doing so, we also built a sense of community, we curated ideas, we disrupted the status quo, we identified the problem then we initiated change. We've (DE-FI)ed all odds, every naysayer, every critic, every doubt, every fear, every rejection, and made the next level our floor. We did not re-invent the wheel, we changed how the wheel was used ultimately putting a global spotlight on Dayton’s emerging and advancing fashion industry and talented work force.
#WeDidItOurWay #ThisIsOurHow #TheEvolutionOfDEFI #ItJustKeepsGettingBetter #TheFashionExperience #LetsGetIt #CincinnatiFashion #DaytonFashion #TheBluePrint #DesignerIncubator #WeInside #TheNextLevelIsHere #RemovingBarriers #ConceptToCompletion #TailorMade #MoldCreator #BeTheOriginal #LetThemModelYou #CFDA #CFDAConnects #FashionCareersStartHere #TheFashionPipeline #FashionAdvancement
#DontWaitForPermission #DontApologize #BeDisruptive #BeDEFIant #BreakEveryRule #ThisIsOurHouse #WhatDoYouDEFI #FirstFlightNowFashion
When we opened the House of (DE-FI)ance in March of 2020 and became one of the founding members of the CFDA Connects program later that year, it became imperative that we are very intentional with our audience and the attendees.
One of our goals is to make sure that by the end of the incubator process our talent is industry ready, which means aligning many of our policies and practices with those of major fashion weeks such as NYC, Paris, and Milan which all use invitation only practices, some invites are sent to key people and the vast majority of invites are by request only.
Another goal is to ensure that aspiring and emerging talent who are genuinely interested in seeking a career in fashion are not lost amongst those who attend fashion events for entertainment.
Each of our events are networking experiences designed to connect aspiring, emerging, and established fashion professionals to one another.
Tickets will only be available for purchase to those individuals who are invited.
Absolutely! All are welcomed to request an invite. Depending on the nature of the event, a select number of "Industry Supporter" invites will be set aside for those that'd would like to support our talent. Tickets will only be available for purchase to those individuals who are invited.
Caressa L. Brown is a Dayton, OH native and resident, that comes from a long line of business owners and community activists. A 1998 graduate of Jefferson High School and a 2007 graduate of Wright State University, Caressa is preparing to study Horticulture and Fashion Design at the University of Cincinnati's DAAP in the Fall of 2023. She currently serves as a coordinator for HBCU Central State University for the Agricultural Research Development Program, where she also Chairs the Recruitment Subcommittee for The John W. Garland College of Engineering, Science, Technology, and Agriculture.
A 2019 Dayton Business Journal Top 40 Under 40 recipient and 2021 Ohio Black Excellence award winner who has launched the careers of thousands of models, designers, photographers, HMUA's, stylists, and more. Owner of the first-of-its-kind fashion incubator (DE-FI) Global INC, Caressa has worked behind the scenes of major New York Fashion Week events produced by IMG/Endeavor via the Council of Fashion Designers of America CFDA and Art Hearts Fashion. She is a founding member of the CFDA Connects Program and served as a member of the programs Executive Board in the inaugural year; she sits on the Advisory Board for Hocking College's Fashion Design & Retail Merchandising Programs, and is preparing to launch The Cincinnati Fashion Incubator in 2023.
Known for her in your face bold (DE-FI)ance, GRIT, giving, big heart, caring spirit, yet no non-sense accountability, tough love, and disciplined approach to business and everyday life; Caressa is probably best known for her resilience, tenacity, and perseverance. Her story has served as the foundation for (DE-FI)'s programming.
Suffering from low self-esteem as a child, Caressa's mom, also a former model, worked several jobs to put her into modeling school so that she could learn how to walk with confidence. After the first class, the instructor pulled Caressa and her mother aside and offered to continue to train Caressa free of charge because she believed that Caressa was the only person in her class that had what it took to make it in the industry as a professional model. It was later discovered that this decision had not been approved by the modeling school's owner who gave Caressa's mom the option to pay back the money owed or withdraw from the school, due to financial barriers, it was decided to withdraw from the school.
With newly found confidence and a new dream of becoming a model, Caressa spent a lot of time hanging out in the bookstores at the local malls reading fashion magazines and fashion based books looking for model searches, studying posing, reading interviews from top models and designers, and totally immersing herself into all things fashion. At the age of 12, Caressa signed her first modeling contract, unfortunately shortly after, her mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. As a result, their already strained financial situation worsened; Caressa's dreams were put on hold to become the caregiver for her mom, a title that 30+ years later, she still holds.
Shortly after graduating from high school, Caressa once again pursued a career as a model after attending a model conference where she scouted and offered a contract with Click Modeling Agency in Atlanta. At the time, she was working at General Motors Truck & Bus and was making good money, while also putting herself through college, and still caring for her disabled mother. Struggling to carry the load of being a full-time first generation college student, caring for a disabled mother, working 50+ hours a week at G.M., and chasing her dreams, she struggled to get to Atlanta to meet with her agency, once again her dream slipped away. A few years later, she became a Regional Semi-Finalist in the iconic Elite Model Look Competition and was offered a contract with Elite Chicago where she again struggled to make it to Chicago to meet with her agency. It was then that she realized that just being able to afford to pursue a dream is not enough, she also needed a support system, which she did not have.
It ultimately took her 9 years to complete her degree; years later, Caressa who has also been a loyal community volunteer and activist since the age of 12 created the Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator (DE-FI) LLC using community outreach as the foundation and requiring talent to volunteer in their respective communities in exchange for (DE-FI) services. As a result, (DE-FI) eliminated financial barriers and provided the needed support system that individuals seeking careers in fashion need to find success within the industry.
And success they have found!
(DE-FI) has grown every year since 2013 without ever having to scale down or veer off course. She is an industry builder. Under Caressa's direction, (DE-FI) Global INC has working relationships/partnerships with multiple colleges, universities, and high schools around the state of Ohio as a result of the unmatched and unparalleled number of success stories that have emerged from the community outreach focused (DE-FI) Global INC.
To date, (DE-FI) has working relationships with staff, faculty, and students at The University of Cincinnati, The University of Dayton, Miami University, Kent State University, The Ohio State University, Bowling Green State University, and Hocking College. Locally, (DE-FI) has the pleasure of working with a number of area high schools and their students including Dayton Regional STEM School, Horizon Academy, Alter, Dayton Early College Academy, Ponitz, and Jefferson. And we've made it happen in the most (DE-FI)ant and disruptive way.
From fashion, media, entertainment, business, and more, (DE-FI) alum have successfully done it all and they've done it all on a global scale. Making Dayton and the Southwest Ohio region the Fashion Capital for the development and success of fashion based talent across multiple disciplines. (DE-FI) Global INC ultimately fosters a viable, nurturing, independent, and self-sustaining fashion community in Southwest Ohio.
Always with the community in mind, Caressa started Veggie Soul: The Farmers’ Market in 2019 as a way to teach the residents of west Dayton (where she lives) and Trotwood how to garden and become more self-sustaining and self-sufficient in the midst of the food desert, and she offers her services free of charge. Her future plans are to open Noirquility which will be an urban retreat/homestead bed and breakfast.
With a focus on removing barriers, particularly the financial barriers that prevent many from succeeding in the fashion industry, (DE-FI)'s work is inspired by the financial struggles and lack of support system that Caressa faced in her one time promising career as a model; her story has served as the foundation for (DE-FI)'s programming.
In 10 years she has expanded her initial company the Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator, better known as (DE-FI) into an internationally recognized and highly coveted brand which consists of an interdisciplinary fashion incubator that focuses on the business of fashion, the first-of-its- kind one stop interdisciplinary fashion co-working space that focuses on team and brand building, the House of (DE-FI)ance, a modeling agency, (DE-FI) Models, Dayton Fashion Week, and more.
Previously, Caressa has served as a Trustee for the Montgomery County Arts & Cultural District, Community Voices producer for NPR affiliate 91.3 FM WYSO in Yellow Springs, and contributor to Dayton Most Metro now Dayton 937.
Former high school intern turned model turned designer Sa-Shai Daniels shares her experience in working with the (DE-FI) in her 5-year journey of creative self-discovery.
Due to financial hardships, we have several participants in our incubators who are unable to afford the cost of the services that we offer. We never turn anyone away due to their inability to pay. Your support and contributions to The Art of (DE-FI)ance Fashion Fund allows us to keep our services affordable and provide hardship grants to participants in need.
Copyright © 2023 (DE-FI) Global INC - All Rights Reserved.
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The Build-A-Brand Experience is back and we are looking for speakers to help our talent and fashion based businesses Reverse Engineer their brands. No fashion experience is needed to lead this signature series…business is business regardless of the discipline. We are looking for speakers that specialize in the following: