2016 Newsmakers: FBI Helps Businesses Start—and Grow


As of Thursday, December 8, 2016

When Frances Harder left a university-level teaching position in the late 1990s, she believed that there was something missing from instruction in fashion education. There was a lack of educators addressing the latest in technology and business practices. In 1999, she founded Fashion Business Inc. as an educational nonprofit for new entrepreneurs. Its mission would be to bring the latest techniques to those looking for a foothold in the business.

Fast-forward a decade and a half and Harder has put FBI on radar screens for the established fashion industry and those getting serious about starting apparel businesses. From FBI headquarters in the California Market Center, Harder and her team—which includes Trish Concannon, executive director; Rob Greenspan, executive chair; and Tony Zhang, director of Chinese business affairs—have put together a slate of educational events and networking opportunities that address all points along the apparel-industry supply chain. FBI’s annual All Aboard Runway Show & Fund-Raiser was produced in November at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. At the show, FBI presented its Moss Adams Fashion Innovator (MAFI) award to Jeff Abrams, founder of the Rails brand.

In 2016, FBI increased choices for its curriculum. There are online classes such as “EDI for Newbies,” which teaches electronic data interchange, crucial for dealing with mass retailers. Other online classes include topics such as sample making and how to start a brand. It has worked with technology company AIMS to put together certification programs in short-term training in fashion tech. It also worked with the Ben B. and Joyce E. Eisenberg Foundation for a program to retrain displaced workers.

In 2016, FBI conducted seminars internationally. Concannon put together classes at the Apparel Textile Sourcing Canada trade show in Toronto. It September she led a delegation to a Hong Kong trade show. FBI also plans to produce informal seminars that passersby can attend at the biannual MAGIC trade show in Las Vegas. For years, FBI has also produced formal seminars at the Sourcing at MAGIC show. “There’s a need for current information,” Harder said.