City Life Org – Saks Launches Second Year of Emerging Designer Accelerator Program, The New Wave

The program supports the growth of emerging brands and emphasizes BIPOC voices

Saks, the leading digital platform for luxury fashion, has launched the second year of its burgeoning designer accelerator program, The New Wave, presented by Mastercard. This year’s program features eight Saks newcomers including Claude Kameni, KEEYAHRI, Ludovic de Saint Sernin, Nalebe, SUNNI SUNNI, Undra Celeste, Who Decides War and Zeynep Arcay. To celebrate the program, Saks will feature participating designers in a robust marketing campaign across its digital channels and in a special window installation at the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store in New York, which is on display now through Tuesday, October 11.

The New Wave program develops and supports high potential independent brands to accelerate their growth at Saks and ultimately across the fashion industry. This year, participating designers were selected from all categories, including women’s, men’s and gender-specific ready-to-wear, footwear and accessories. Participants were identified by Saks leadership team as brands that have significant growth potential and would benefit from additional support to scale their businesses.

The program also aims to amplify BIPOC voices and encourage Saks’ commitment to greater representation across its range of merchandise. This year, six of the eight participating brands are Black-owned businesses, and Saks has ensured that at least half of the program participants will be BIPOC brands each year.

“We’re excited to continue using our platform to empower emerging brands and support BIPOC designers,” said Tracy Margolies, Chief Merchandising Officer, Saks. “This incredible program offers emerging designers a unique opportunity to accelerate their growth at Saks and across the fashion industry. At the same time, it fuels our commitment to increasing exposure in our range and delivering fresh, compelling fashion to our customers.”


This year’s New Wave program includes:

  • Onboarding bootcamp at Saks corporate headquarters in New York City.
  • Cross-functional consulting sessions with executives from key areas across the Saks business, including merchandising, marketing, public relations and business operations.
  • Mentoring sessions with industry experts including designer Joseph Altuzarra, Founder and CEO of Harlem’s Fashion Row Brandice Daniel and Executive Vice President of Purple PR Andrew Lister.
  • Roundtable with NBA All-Star, Entrepreneur, Investor and Saks Board Member James Harden on Entrepreneurship and Style.
  • Workshops and consulting for small businesses led by program partners such as Launch Collective, NuORDER by Lightspeed and SKYPAD.
  • Deskside meetings with Vogue editors and access to professional development through the CFDA.
  • Opportunity to receive a $10,000 grant to support business operations and growth.
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For the second consecutive year, Mastercard is a Presenting Sponsor of The New Wave program. Mastercard will provide participating designers with Digital Doors® toolkits, including exclusive tools and resources to help small businesses with their digital transformation, as well as personalized mentoring on digital empowerment. This partnership builds on Mastercard’s ongoing commitment to building a more inclusive digital economy and helping to close the racial wealth and opportunity gap for black communities.

This year, United Airlines is also participating in The New Wave program. United held a contest for this year’s entrants to design the refreshed Saks Fifth Avenue bedspread, which will be available on United flights in United Premium cabins from April 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023. After review by the executive teams at Saks and United, Claude Kameni was selected as the winner of the design competition. In addition to her design being featured on United flights, Claude will receive a $10,000 travel stipend and a $10,000 financial stipend for design services from United.



Claude Kameni is a contemporary fashion designer who sees her eponymous label as a bridge between her culture and the global fashion industry. The colorful prints, bold patterns and unique designs in Claude’s work are inspired by her West African heritage in Yaoundé, Cameroon. As a child she was extremely creative with a keen eye for silhouette and color. After moving to the United States at the age of 8, she was able to attend her first fashion class in high school, which started her design journey. Since then, Claude has studied patterns extensively, manipulating them to create extremely eye-catching garments that have caught the attention of celebrities such as Janet Jackson and Viola Davis. A master of African design, Claude Kameni also works to take traditional rigid African print fabrics and transform them into a range of breathable pieces suitable for every body.


Feathers, faux fur, pops of color, odd shapes, architectural concepts and innovative designs. KEEYAHRI is a footwear label focused on building the confidence of the shoe wearer every step of the way. Founder and Artistic Director Keya Martin traded her corporate career for a more rewarding career in fashion with a focus on luxury footwear for the confident woman. Her journey has led her to embrace the shoemaking process while rewriting and redefining the rules of shoe design. After making a name for herself in the United States, KEEYAHRI’s contemporary designs are now sailing the Atlantic.

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Ludovic de Saint Sernin represents a return to beauty, seen through the lens of sensuality and sexuality, with a sophisticated approach to design. Ludovic is a French designer who graduated in fashion design from ESAA Duperré and worked in a number of French fashion houses before founding his own label in 2018. Ludovic de Saint Sernin is for both men and women, with many pieces designed without a gender. Ludovic has shown his collection in both the official men’s and women’s fashion week calendar in Paris. The label is known for its underwear, which creates a new product category of luxury men’s underwear, with the eyelet brief being the brand’s signature. The majority of Ludovic’s clothing and accessories are made in France and sustainable practices are always closely followed, deliberately shortening the supply chain and maintaining a close relationship with all ateliers.


Nalebe was founded by Amina Means with the aim of offering sustainable and comfortable shoes. Made In Italy, the global lifestyle shoe brand, was founded after Amina Means sprained her ankle and decided to create shoes that are not only based on classic design with artisanal craftsmanship, but also focus on creating comfort and at the same time add stylish details. Amina’s brand embodies her love for sustainability, choosing to produce within a zero-waste production cycle and using recyclable packaging. Her romantic sensibilities, artistic indulgence, and exquisite innovations have become must-haves for celebrities, fashion influencers, and women who make a difference in the world.


SUNNI SUNNI is a conceptual footwear brand founded in July 2020 by self-taught footwear designer Sunni Dixon. The label is artful and sophisticated with stimulating inventive concepts that are sophisticated and simple, yet street-ready. Born and raised in Washington, DC, formerly known as Chocolate City, much of Sunni inspiration is rooted in black culture. Awareness runs deep in everything that is produced and SUNNI SUNNI plans to make the most ethical choices when designing its shoes and creating its stories.

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Undra Celeste as a designer is the modern multicultural designer. Undra designs clothing that inspires confidence and an uncompromising presence. The brand is the perfect mix of professional and statement clothing. Undra’s goal is to give multicultural women the opportunity to feel authentic at work and exude confidence by offering modern, fun and bold workwear.


In 2019, Artistic Director Ev Bravado and his creative partner Tela D’Amore presented their first comprehensive collection for Who Decides War in Paris. Widely known for rediscovering signature denim silhouettes, Who Decides War focuses on meticulously crafted pieces, expert mending, recycling, reworking and multi-stage hand-dying of garments, all with unparalleled and painstaking attention to appliqué detail. These key factors continue to set this creative team apart. As Who Decides War continues to grow exponentially, the in-house team maintains the same down-to-earth perspective and mission statement, bringing faith, culture and a handcrafted touch to every garment created.


Zeynep Arçay spent most of her career as an executive in the technology industry before switching gears in 2016 to follow her passion for design and launch her eponymous label. The brand, which is best known for unconventional leather processing and innovative craftsmanship, strikes just the right balance between modern and classic with its sophisticated clothes and tailoring.


Saks Fifth Avenue is the leading name in luxury shopping. Since 1924, the brand has maintained a reputation for delivering an expertly curated fashion range and highly personalized service. The Saks Fifth Avenue experience offers seamless, omnichannel shopping via an elevated digital platform and personal services delivered by an exceptional network of 40 Saks Fifth Avenue stores across North America.

Shop on and the Saks app, or visit to find a Saks Fifth Avenue location near you.

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SOURCE Saks/PRNewswire

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