NEW YORK – With an internationally acclaimed clothing line, an accessories brand and a successful set of knitting books, you’d think Wenlan Chia would enjoy relaxing in her spare time. But instead, the Taiwanese designer has made it her mission to mentor future fashion designers from her home country, training students in Taiwan over video chat and even bringing them over to the U.S. to debut their creations.
“My whole idea is to bring this whole New York fashion industry experience to those kids in Taiwan,” Chia told FOX411 at an event showcasing her students’ designs. “I wanted to start this fashion incubation program to cultivate new talents, to help them to enter the fashion business.”
Chia’s program, Praxes, works with graduate students from Shihchien University in Taipei and focuses on giving the students a comprehensive look at the fashion industry.
Chia explained that she aims to teach her students that making it in the fashion industry is really about knowing how to run a good business, not about designing well.
“We divide [the students] into design, marketing, sales, like a whole pseudo company. In this program they learn how to position a brand.”
They do so by working with three real clothing labels that the Praxes program has created. The goal is to get the clothes into stores, and the designs are also made available on the program’s website. If the clothes earn a profit, the money is reinvested back into the Praxes program.
“Were kind of learning and working at the same time,” Chia said.
In the program, the students divide up into different divisions to design looks and market their creations. Groups work on sales, customer relations and public relations as well. Throughout the program, they get feedback from fashion industry experts in New York that Chia is connected to, all via video chats.
This month, Chia’s trainees jetted to the Big Apple to showcase their designs, meet with buyers and network. The point of the trip is to show the students how a real business runs, Chia explained.
Being a smart businesswoman has certainly helped the CFDA award-winning designer find success. Her brand, Twinkle by Wenlan, has become synonymous in the fashion world with cozy knits and distinct prints, and her books on knitting have garnered her even more attention.
It’s her business-savvy attitude that her students appreciate the most, Jamie Tseng said.
“We are so lucky to meet Wenlan because she [has] such a successful business and she is very graceful to help us,” 28-year-old Tseng said, revealing that Chia’s well-rounded lessons had impacted him. “She knows how to make profit. That’s very important because in a business, if you can’t make any profit, you won’t get into… the industry.”