Learn the business of fashion for free with BKLYN Fashion Academy

By Faye Penn

New Yorkers are more likely to head to the boutiques of Soho than the stacks at Brooklyn Public Library to keep up on style trends, but aspiring fashion designers need look no further than the main branch at Grand Army Plaza.

On Monday, Sept. 30, applications opened for BKLYN Fashion Academy, the library’s completely free, 16-week intensive that trains the sartorially-inclined in all things fashion, from designing a capsule collection to launching their own label.

Lynnsie Augustin, project manager at the Central Library and a designer in her free time, co-founded the program with her colleague Winnie Siclait. “My parents always said, ‘Fashion isn’t a career,’ so I went to business school. But I’ve always had a passion for it,” says Augustin.

The academy gives Brooklynites an opportunity to get hands-on experience in the industry while also learning to use the library as a resource on the history of fashion. During the course, students will attend classes on everything from patternmaking to sustainable design and receive mentoring from industry experts. Each student will create a capsule collection of four-to-six ready-to-wear Spring/Summer pieces, culminating in a fashion show held at the Central Library in May.

This year, the theme is the History of Carnival, the pre-Lenten festival celebrated in cities all over the world, from Rio de Janeiro to New Orleans to the Caribbean. Augustin expects the class to draw inspiration from the signature colorful costuming for their capsule collections. “We want our students to see how different the Carnival cultures are and turn it into modern-day fashion,” Augustin says.

BKLYN Fashion Academy is a partner of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) through its Made in NY Fashion initiative, which provides access to resources and runs a designation program for NYC-based fashion designers who produce locally.

Applicants for the Academy must be 18 years of age, live in Brooklyn and have some prior sewing experience. The program draws in creatives of all ages; in past cohorts, participants ranged in age from 19 to 75. Graduates have gone on to pursue careers in fashion. Notable alums include Sharufa Rashied-Walker, who founded the women’s apparel label Jinaki and Xera Agana, who owns Agana LTD and has designed pieces for stars of The Real Housewives and Love and Hip-Hop

Rashied-Walker, who graduated in the inaugural class in 2018, says the Academy exposed her to resources she could use for her business right in Brooklyn. “As a designer, you have this misconception that you have to go to the Fashion District in Manhattan for everything,” says Rashied-Walker. Attending the program not only gave her networking opportunities—mentoring, guest speakers and meeting other Brooklyn-based designers—but also introduced her to resources like FabScrap and the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator, where she sourced sustainable supplies that helped her cut costs and expand her label. “The [Academy] helped me identify weak areas in my business. I was able to use some of the tools given and connections made to address them and change them for the better,” she says.

Applications are now open through November 1, 2019, with four information sessions scheduled in October. Classes for the 2020 cohort kick off in January. Visit to learn more and apply.