Tuesday, May 30

Saks’s New Wave Program Is Changing the Fashion Industry


Courtesy of Anna Irving; Courtesy of Tory Burch; Launchmetrics Spotlight/ Ludovic de Saint Sernin; Courtesy of Proenza Schouler

Here’s a harsh truth: Breaking into the fashion industry is no easy feat. There are numerous hurdles for designers, especially those from marginalized communities, including finding funding, carving out a niche in an oversaturated market, and getting stock-listed at major retailers. Even if you overcome every challenge, that doesn’t mean overnight success or long-term relevance. So many small labels have gone viral overnight, only to shutter a few years later because they couldn’t keep up with the fast-paced production or create a profitable business model. 

But one retailer is trying to change that harsh reality for new designers. Since its inception in 1867, Saks Fifth Avenue has been one of the pinnacles of high fashion. Generations of creatives have aspired to see their designs in the windows of the retailer’s iconic Fifth Avenue location. That dream is now within reach for a rising crop of designers, thanks to the New Wave accelerator program at Saks. Launched in 2021, the initiative was created in partnership with Mastercard to provide talent with the tools to build long-lasting luxury labels. Of course, other retailers have diversified their stockists in recent years to address calls for systemic change, but this isn’t a fluff PR move for Saks. The program is buying budding designers’ work and setting them up for long-term viability by sharing knowledge and resources. 

That distinction has made the program unique. It has reached its aim of not only giving a platform to the most exciting talent of our era but, in the process, has made Saks the place to watch and shop for new designers. However, success, especially in this industry, isn’t achieved without the work of people behind the scenes. One of the driving forces behind this program has been Saks’s SVP, GMM Women’s Designer Ready-to-Wear Anna Irving. So, of course, we had to speak with Irving about her work, and luckily, she obliged. Ahead, you’ll hear from Irving about her buying career, the importance of the New Wave program, and which trends and brands will define the rest of 2023. 

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