by John Russel Jones

Genesis, a global automotive brand based in South Korea, and the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) have announced the CFDA | Genesis House AAPI Design + Innovation Grant, a new mentorship program dedicated to supporting innovation in design within the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. The initiative provides three rising fashion designers with invaluable education and mentorship from notable industry leaders, along with funding from Genesis, as they are challenged to create a collection highlighting the tension between their Asian heritage and modernity.

Genesis House

As part of the program, Genesis and the CFDA are tapping global fashion and business leaders to serve as design mentors throughout the duration of the challenge, working closely with participants to provide expertise and counsel as they curate their collections. In addition to three lead mentors, Genesis and CFDA are creating an advisory board of fashion industry and CFDA members to select the designers and judge the final collections in September. Mentors and advisory board members include:

  • Alina Cho (Journalist)
  • Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim (Founders, Monse)
  • Grace Cha (Innovation Consultant)
  • Jodie Turner- Smith (Actress)
  • Prabal Gurung (Designer)
  • Rachel Espersen (Executive Director, Genesis Brand Experience, Genesis House & Studio)
  • Sandra Park (Vice President Merchandise Manager – Menswear, Saks)
  • Stephanie Horton (Senior Director Global Marketing, Google)
  • Steven Kolb (CEO, CFDA)
Jodie Turner

Each designer is also receiving a $40,000 grant on behalf of Genesis to finance their design innovations throughout the five-month challenge, which will include an immersion trip to Seoul, South Korea to study the country’s heritage and meet with the fashion team at the Onjium research institute. The challenge will culminate in a public showcase at Genesis House in New York City in February 2024, where the custom garments will remain on display and the winning designer will be awarded an additional $60,000 to develop their collection, bringing the total grant award to $100,000.

“We’re honored to partner with the CFDA to champion the incredible innovation in design and fashion that’s occurring within the AAPI community,” said Rachel Espersen, executive director of brand experience, Genesis House and Studios, at Genesis Motor America. “Grounded in our three tenants of Design, Hospitality, and Technology, we look forward to witnessing the creativity of our honored guests in action and welcoming the brightest minds in the fashion industry to Genesis House.”

“AAPI talents play a significant role in contributing to and shaping American fashion,” added Steven Kolb, CEO of the CFDA. “We are excited to partner with Genesis to develop the new grant program to help herald a future generation of AAPI designers making their mark on our industry through creativity and innovation.”

Submissions will open later this summer for designers to apply to participate in the CFDA | Genesis House AAPI Design + Innovation Grant.

Image, top: Prabal Gurung.