Fred Segal, L.A.'s retail outpost of California cool, has team up with the Black in Fashion Council once again for their second Season Zero Design Contest.First launched in 2020, the design contest, sponsored by Mastercard, highlights the work of up-and-coming fashion designers. These designers are provided with funding, mentorship, and a retail platform to help jumpstart their respective brands. 

“Fred Segal remains dedicated to continue learning, growing, and making strides towards diversity, equity and inclusion as a brand today, and everyday,” said Jeff Lotman, Fred Segal CEO and owner. “It’s extremely important to us that we’re not just talking the talk, but walking the walk, which is why the second iteration of the Season Zero design contest, and supporting and mentoring young, diverse creators is so important to us.”

One grand prize winner will have their collection produced, showcased and sold at their own pop-up space at Fred Segal’s flagship location on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles and online at this fall. In addition, the winner will receive a one-on-one mentorship with representatives from Fred Segal and Mastercard, as well as a Mastercard $10,000 grant and a Digital Doors Toolkit to help further grow and digitally enhance their business.

 Connor McKnightK.ngsley, and House of Aama were the winners of the inaugural season of the design contest.

As a 2020 runner up, Kingsley Gbadegesin debuted his collection at Fred Segal in 2021. Prior to launching his gender-neutral brand in 2020, Gbadegesin worked for industry powerhouses including Versace, Celine, and Loewe. The brand is inspired by the vibrancy and community activism of the club scene and features an assortment of elevated basics. Below, Gbadegesin shared with EBONY the benefits of participation in the Season Zero Design Contest.

EBONY: How has the Season Zero Design Contest impacted your career endeavors?
Kingsley Gbadegesin: For me, the biggest impact was being able to use the funds to pay my factories and to pay for the raw materials and supplies to keep up with the new demand my business saw as we were gearing up for our first sales expansion, as well as the exposure of being stocked at Fred Segal's Sunset location.

How have you paid your newfound success forward since winning the contest?
K.ngsley was actively built on paying it forward. From my team to the models used, I make sure we're pouring back into the girls and our culture, which means so much to me. My design team is composed of fellow queers who inspire me and who are actively moving the conversation forward for the future that we want to see.

What are some challenges and rewards that have come with kick starting your own brand?
Some of the challenges I've come across are being able to make adequate time for myself, learning it's okay to step back, and remembering that "slow and steady wins the race."

The rewards have been truly a blessing and remarkable for the reach it's had—from K.ngsley being featured on magazine covers, to the line being shipped to over 20 countries, and being worn by public figures that I adore like Zaya Wade, Issa Rae, and Lil Nas X.

The second annual competition will accept submissions from February 1 through March 15th nationwide, and will be open to all designers and creatives without a current retail footprint. Panelists who will be overseeing submissions include co-founder of Black in Fashion Council and The Cut Editor-in-Chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner, designer and Yowie founder Shannon Maldonado, founder of Cross Colors and Black Design Collective TJ Walker.