It’s no surprise that Boston has a hot startup scene–some of the best schools and smartest people in the world call the city home. What is surprising, though, is how many of Boston’s budding startups–and more established tech companies–are in the fashion industry, a sector typically monopolized by New York. Between Ministry of Supply, Karmaloop, UsTrendy and Rue La La, Boston is carving out a niche as a hotbed for fashion-focused tech businesses (there’s even a clothing manufacturer, Cravatta Manufacturing, set to open in the innovation district in June 2013). The latest company to join the lineup? 19th Amendment, a company that likens itself to both Kickstarter and Project Runway, in that it aims to lower the barrier to entry for emerging designers. We talked to CEO and co-founder Amanda Curtis about her vision for the company, and why she left New York for Boston.
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT THE CONCEPT BEHIND 19TH AMENDMENT?
19th Amendment is a portfolio / kickstarter platform for emerging designers to showcase, get critiqued on, and sell their designs. We help young designers by facilitating the manufacturing process, which is all done in the United States, and by getting them the early stage sales and consumer support that they need to break into the fashion industry. Consumers are able to interact with designers (think real time Project Runway) and discover fresh designs from some of the most talented young designers around the country.
HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA TO START THE COMPANY, AND WHAT SORT OF SPACE DO YOU HOPE IT WILL FILL IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY?
After graduating from Parsons I was very optimistic about one day launching my own brand. However, after entering into the industry I quickly realized that in order to do so I would need a substantial amount of capital, no matter how much talent I had. I knew that there had to be a way to showcase new talent, and help young designers get the resources they need without spending a ton of money. It would just take a change to the current structure of the fashion system.
I used my marketing and tech start-up background to formulate a plan with the thought that if I could prove current market demand for new designers, through garment sales, I could help them break into the fashion industry. By tweaking the model of traditional crowd funding to be more retail specific I knew that I could create a workable business model.
WHAT HAS STARTING 19TH AMENDMENT BEEN LIKE SO FAR?
Starting 19th Amendment has been a thrilling experience, not unlike putting on a fashion show. I have worked backstage at Lincoln Center and this is the same kind of adrenaline rush that is routed in knowing in your heart that you’re creating something great but not knowing how the audience will perceive it. I’m more fulfilled by 19th Amendment because I know that what I’m doing will ultimately benefit many designers.
YOU USED TO LIVE IN NEW YORK – WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO BOSTON?
The tech startup scene brought me back to Boston. I’ve always known that I wanted to start my own company and I felt that while New York has a lot of traditional fashion companies that start there, Boston has some of the most innovative.
HAVE YOU FOUND THAT THERE ARE A LOT OF RESOURCES FOR ENTREPRENEURS HERE?
There are almost too many resources in Boston for entrepreneurs. My co-founder Gemma Sole and I usually end up splitting events because their tends to be an overlap. Both Gemma and I are graduates of the inaugural class of the Start Up Institute (www.startupinstitute.com) . It was there that we were introduced to the startup scene and taught how to effectively navigate it.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE FASHION COMMUNITY HERE VERSUS IN NEW YORK?
While the fashion community in Boston is much smaller than in New York, I find that it is a lot more accepting of innovation. The New York fashion scene is established, it’s much harder to try to change the way things are done, while in Boston the fashion scene is still evolving so there’s more opportunity for change.
WHERE DO YOU ULTIMATELY HOPE TO TAKE YOUR COMPANY?
I hope that 19th Amendment can one day be open to emerging designers all over the world. We would love to help designers start out on the right foot, by helping them manufacture locally and source sustainable materials.
WHY DID YOU NAME IT 19TH AMENDMENT- IS THERE A STORY THERE?
The 19th Amendment guaranteed the right to vote for all Americans, specifically women. Looking at the fashion industry as a whole I saw that there was such a disconnect in communication between all parties; the designers, the buyers, and the consumers. We live in an age of hyper communication and connection and I wanted to bring that to the fashion industry, to create an ecosystem where all parties have a voice.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW?
Our beta is launching soon with our first round of designers. In the meantime people can register on our site. Inquiries can be made on our site http://19thamendment.co/connect.php
Photos by Andrew Wang.