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Start-Up Aids Emerging Fashion Designers

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When Brooklyn-based designer Christine Alcalay was looking for a way to expand her line of high-end women's apparel out of her own boutique to other retail outlets, she wasn't sure where to turn.

"My mom is a seamstress and pattern maker and we were dealing with production on our own but I needed a place where I could go to grow my production," she said. "It should be really easy to find factories and fabric vendors but there aren't a lot of organizations out there helping new designers."

Alcalay was then introduced by a friend to Afingo, a New York-based fashion start-up which connects emerging independent designers with manufacturers, pattern makers and textile mills. Founded by former Canadian factory owner Liza Deyrmenjian, Afingo was launched to help young fashion labels navigate an industry notorious for its complexity and opaqueness.

"The process now of launching a brand is like pin the tail on the donkey," Deyrmenjian said. "New brands just don't know where to find a factory, what the cost is and what they should be paying."

With Afingo, designers enter information like the type of contractor they're looking for, the fabric they want to use, price points and quantity. The site then matches designers with factories that can help them produce.

"We're like a Match.com for factories and designers," she said.

There are over 300 factories on the site from around the world, all of which Afingo staff have visited and vetted.

Afingo targets smaller designers who have on average around $500,000 in revenue a year or less. But it's also worked with bigger brands like Cynthia Rowley -- also an Afingo advisor -- and Escada.

While Afingo is currently free for designers to use, it will begin charging $95 for matches starting in January. Afingo's sister site, ShopToko, is the company's main revenue driver. ShopToko is an e-commerce site which links up emerging brands -- many of which have used Afingo -- with independent retailers. The site changes up its featured designers each month with current sales including leather bag vendor Eayrslee and jumpsuit brand California Christiania Republic.

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