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Design here: Former Pfizer building gets business incubator

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A Bedford-Stuyvesant designer is turning foraged nut, berry, and flower juice into clothing dyes.

Liz Spencer is rooting around for pokeberry, black walnut, and goldenrod in Prospect Park and other verdant areas around the borough to make red, beige, and yellow custom clothes. She also grows flowers in front of her apartment for their pigments. She has the processes down, but the trick now is trying to figure out how to turn a profit doing it.

“My forte is design and sustainability, but not so much business,” she said.

Spencer is one of the young business owners taking part in Pratt Institute’s new Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator in the old Pfizer building on Flushing Avenue.

“I am hoping to get the mentorship I need here to change that,” she said.

The program is meant to assist new designers through their crucial early development stages, its head said.

“This is a great opportunity to take young designers and give them a place that they can make their dreams happen,” director Debera Johnson said.

The Accelerator had temporarily made its home at the Navy Yard for the past year. In its new, much larger space between Tompkins and Throop avenues it has space for 30 businesses. So far, there are 16, each selected by the project’s board based on the feasibility and creativity of its concept, its principals’ work ethic, and their portfolio.

Some of the projects on display at the incubator’s Nov. 11 grand opening included three-dimensionally printed crystal jewelry and origami rubber.

Mads Hansen’s company Trex:Labs evolved out of research to create a super-strong material that retains its shape. He settled on origami rubber, which he makes by injecting liquid rubber into a three-dimensionally printed mold. The resulting material can be pulled and stretched and still keeps its folds. Hansen has made a few items this way, including a purse and a computer bag, but he is angling for a bigger, better product — made by someone else.

“I am hoping to find someone who has a very important use for this material,” he said.

Each business pays between $350 and $600 a month for a space. The facility includes work spaces, a production area with large automatic knitting machines, laser cutters, three-dimensional printers, a meeting room, and an exhibition space.

Tenants also get daily consultations from a staff of experienced designers. A big bonus of the whole arrangement is the feeling of camaraderie, a designer said.

“It is so inspiring to be a part of a community of designers who are all working on so many great projects,” said Caroline Kaufman, who is trying to create a line of clothing and hats and get them into boutiques. “We all help each other and learn from each other.”

Unlike many business incubators, the Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator does not ask its members for a percentage of their profits. Instead, it lets them put all their income back into their enterprises.

“We can help a business go from $30,000 to $300,000, making them slightly larger small businesses,” Johnson said. “We want these businesses to have a chance at success.”

The incubator has a small retail space in front that is set to open soon with regular hours.

Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator [630 Flushing Ave. between Tompkins and Throop avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant, 7th Floor, www.brooklynaccelerator.com].

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Marie from Williamsburg says:
Actually, it's illegal and unethical to take any native plants or berries from city parks to use to make dyes for her business.
Broadway Triangle.
Watch closely.
Nov. 14, 2014, 7:32 pm
ty from pps says:
don't rent the room where they used to make Viagra!
Nov. 16, 2014, 3:48 pm
Jarmusch from Greenpoint says:
@Marie: 'it's illegal and unethical to take any native plants or berries from city parks'.
So, the tour guides who conduct foraging hikes/classes on edible plants, many times during the year in city parks, are violating some law?
You must be out of your mind.
Nov. 16, 2014, 7 pm

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