NYC-based VC fund to invest in Michigan fashion companies – MiBiz

LANSING — A New York-based mostly enterprise capital agency needs to propel Michigan’s nascent fashion trade to runways in every single place. 

Whereas many enterprise capital funds select to goal standard sectors in the know-how and well being care industries, Mission I Fund LP hopes to fill a distinct segment for entrepreneurs attempting to push their fashion merchandise out to a bigger market. 

The $5 million enterprise capital fund just lately opened a Michigan workplace by means of a strategic partnership with The Runway Fashion Incubator in Lansing. Mission I'll function the enterprise capital agency in residence on the incubator, which is run by means of the Metropolis of Lansing and the Lansing Financial Space Partnership (LEAP).

“We would like the Michigan fashion scene to be a nationwide narrative,” mentioned Jon Lewis, chairman of Mission I. “It’s not simply concerning the New York fashion scene or the L.A. fashion scene. Whether or not that’s even related anymore is sort of a fable.”

To that finish, an financial impression report final September from the congressional Joint Financial Committee confirmed the $380 billion fashion trade has began to change into extra distributed in latest years, with rising clusters creating round areas with robust design colleges. 

“Excessive-worth jobs in the fashion trade that pay excessive wages are spreading all through the nation, that means that the financial impression of the fashion trade is increasing past the trade’s conventional footprint,” in accordance to the report.


Lewis and enterprise accomplice John Elmuccio, who serves as Mission I’s CEO, consider merchandise from small, native fashion entrepreneurs will develop in recognition in coming years as customers eschew conventional retailers to focus extra on direct interplay with manufacturers. 

“There’s clearly a shift in shopper shopping for patterns and that actually permits for a special mindset and dialog about how manufacturers will be related,” Lewis mentioned. “Once you have a look at Michigan, that uncooked genuine power actually comes by means of in a branding proposition.”  

Mission I primarily intends to goal early-stage companies with a proof of idea. Particularly, Lewis and Elmuccio are searching for companies with modern merchandise and house owners who “consider in the disruptor mannequin.” 

The agency plans to deploy between $250,000 and $ million per funding and concentrate on companies with merchandise that combine some type of know-how, Lewis mentioned.

On the onset, Mission I goals to invest in two Michigan companies, two companies in New York and one firm from Los Angeles. 

The agency is presently in the ultimate levels of hanging a deal to invest in Article One, a Flint-based mostly eyewear firm, and is in the start phases of a number of different offers, Lewis mentioned. 

By sustaining its workplace in New York Metropolis, Mission I hopes to coach and mentor its companies — and different entrepreneurs passing by means of the incubator — on the intricacies of the fashion trade. 

“A whole lot of the incubator candidates that come by means of right here need to speak to somebody who has a protracted historical past in the fashion enterprise and desires to know the way VC and buyers work,” Lewis mentioned. “We have now these conversations with them, whether or not we invest in them or not.”


For LEAP, including Mission I to The Runway Fashion Incubator marks the following step in the financial improvement group’s imaginative and prescient for constructing a fashion sector in mid-Michigan and all through the state. 

“We took an enormous danger a variety of years in the past to put collectively this fashion incubator in downtown Lansing,” mentioned Bob Trezise, president and CEO of LEAP. “With the technological advances in sew and stitching, it's doable to carry again the fashion trade, particularly manufacturing, not solely to america however proper right here in Michigan. Our fashion incubator is attempting to create a connection between our design expertise and precise manufacturing.”

In accordance to Bureau of Labor Statistics knowledge, greater than .eight million folks work in the fashion trade nationwide, however attire manufacturing jobs have declined in latest a long time. In 1990, nearly 940,000 folks labored in attire manufacturing, in contrast to fewer than 138,000 in 2015. 

Nonetheless, the Joint Financial Committee report famous that U.S. attire manufacturing has benefitted from new retail developments favoring “small-batch, quick-turnaround merchandise to meet quick altering shopper tastes. U.S. manufacturing permits for a product to be conceived of and produced in weeks. That is notably essential to small companies addressing area of interest markets.”


Joe Carr, director of The Runway Fashion Incubator, believes having a enterprise capital agency embedded inside the group will assist persuade extra those who fashion is usually a excessive-development trade and funding alternative. 

“It’s such an essential key useful resource for fashion startups as a result of in lots of people’s eyes, they see fashion as being extra inventive,” mentioned Carr, who additionally serves because the startup innovation supervisor at LEAP. “They don’t see it as a excessive-development alternative or trade, apart from a choose few.”

Mission I additionally serves because the enterprise capital agency in residence on the Flint Ferris Wheel Innovation Middle, and has relationships with different funds and assets, together with Grand Rapids-based mostly Begin Backyard and Ponyride, an arts-centered incubator based mostly in Detroit. 

Financial builders additionally assume having a fashion-focused enterprise capital useful resource in the state will additional assist retain graduating fashion designers from a wide range of universities throughout the state. 

For instance, Kendall Faculty of Artwork and Design presents a bachelor of effective arts diploma in fashion research by means of the Pamella Roland DeVos Faculty of Fashion. This system features a one-yr immersion on the Fashion Institute of Expertise in New York Metropolis.

In accordance to Carr, The Runway Fashion Incubator needs to change into a conduit for providers that encourage designers to strive their hand on the trade from Michigan. 

“This (incubator) was an thought to create a sort of central focus level and useful resource middle for these college students and people who could have been in fashion in Michigan all alongside, to find a way to come to the area, get an workplace, make their prototypes, use their manufacturing area, come to a fashion present, or simply be concerned in the fashion scene that’s grown right here,” Carr mentioned. 

— MiBiz Editor Joe Boomgaard contributed to this report. 

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NYC-based VC fund to invest in Michigan fashion companies - MiBiz