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PARIS — Smart money: It’s what young designers need, and why fashion prizes are layering on coaching in addition to cash to ensure solid business development.
Dutch designer Iris van Herpen, who catapulted 3-D printing to the fashion forefront with her sculptural dresses, is the latest talent to receive such a boost, having scooped up the 2014 ANDAM Fashion Award. The prize of 250,000 euros, or $341,630 at current exchange, will enable her to grow her brand, which was launched in 2007.
The prize package also contains a year’s worth of mentoring from François-Henri Pinault, chairman and chief executive officer of Kering, who is to advise on matters including financial, legal, marketing, communications and production.
“I voted for her,” Pinault smiled during a brief award ceremony at the Hôtel France-Amériques in Paris on Thursday night.
Along with Stefano Martinetto, ceo of Tomorrow London; Xavier Romatet, Condé Nast France president; John Demsey, group president of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.; model Caroline de Maigret; Anne-Sophie von Claer, deputy managing editor of Le Figaro, and photographer Ellen von Unwerth, Pinault sat on this year’s judging panel. He said the single most frequent mistake young designers commit is “probably to go too early into distribution and not spend enough time on the product.”
Material, craftsmanship and functionality are all equally important, he explained. “Iris’ level of excellence is already above average. But as a mentor I want to direct her to other manufacturers and give her more insight into the product making,” he said, citing Gucci and Bottega Veneta as possible addresses that could be useful to the Dutch designer in the leather category.
Pierre-Yves Roussel, chairman and ceo of LVMH Fashion Group, one of the award’s 13 sponsors, said young designers typically struggle with the basics, including production of apparel and leather goods — how to finance it and ensure quality — and the basics of price positioning and distribution. Nascent companies also need advice on organization, Roussel said, noting, “What kind of talent do I need to assemble?” is a key question designers need to ask.
While her experimental couture has been a creative highlight of the official couture calendar of the Chambre Syndicale since 2011, van Herpen’s ready-to-wear line is barely two seasons old.
Martinetto, who has been distributing the rtw label via the Tomorrow showroom since it launched in March 2013, said: “Iris knows couture is important but she also knows that couture is a form of art. She wants to translate this form of art into merchandising, and I will support her in the development of her collection and in achieving her target, which is the global distribution of a designer-level brand. She is very focused on that part of her business.”
According to Martinetto, van Herpen, who will skip this week’s couture shows to concentrate on her rtw, “had an amazing season.”
Her rtw is currently stocked in about 20 doors worldwide, including Dover Street Market in London, Odd in New York and Joyce in Hong Kong.
“We are targeting 50 accounts worldwide in the next year and we will cap the growth at 100, 120 accounts,” he said, adding that “there is also a lot of product category growth to watch out for, including footwear and accessories. We have the distribution channels, so once the products are ready we will be able to reach the buyers she wants.”
Van Herpen’s victory will provide her with an additional purchase order from Hudson’s Bay Co., plus 10,000 euros, or $13,665, worth of crystals from Swarovski. The designer is best known for her arty show installations and otherworldly dresses fancied by the likes of Lady Gaga and Daphne Guinness.
“I’m really overwhelmed, I didn’t expect it, I’m honored, and it’s going to be a big help for me and my projects,” she said in an interview. “I really want to grow my ready-to-wear and the range of garments. My last collection was 25 pieces, which is quite small for a rtw [collection]. Per season I’m thinking about 33, and I want to expand my accessories.”
Van Herpen, who graduated from the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts Arnhem in 2006 before joining Alexander McQueen, said she has always made shoes in collaboration with somebody else and now feels the urge to do it on her own, knowing it’s “a big step.”
Bags are next on her list. She said she did one last season, but felt the quality of the production was inferior, not matching the level of technique she was aiming for. Once that’s done, she will venture into jewelry.
“I can’t wait, it’s been on my list from the beginning, but I can’t do everything at the same time,” she said.
The designer said being a small, independent label, “the challenges are everywhere. It’s finding the right partners for your production, having a good show, deliver on time, having your prices in a good range. It’s about the organization.”
Indeed, the questions she is burning to ask Pinault concern “the little things.”
“There is no big gap I am trying to fill, I’m just trying to make the little things I’m doing a little better,” she said.
“Don’t blow it all on the show” was Demsey’s advice to van Herpen. The Estée Lauder Cos. executive said the younger generation often tends to get “caught up in the glamour — and we all do, that’s what we love about fashion. But business model and brand positioning are also essential.”
He admitted that van Herpen, whose shows involve a lot of makeup artistry, was a favorite. “Being a cosmetics company steers the way we think,” he said.
Van Herpen stressed she does “not plan to spend all the money in one year. I want to grow my p.r. and have a nice presence in every big city. That’s the goal. And of course I would love to open a store in Paris in some time,” she said.
The second prize of the evening — the First Collection Award with an endowment of 75,000 euros or $102,489 — went to Coperni Femme. The Paris-based label founded by Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant in 2013 will receive a commercial and strategic mentorship from the Tomorrow showroom and an exclusive space in Galeries Lafayette’s flagship in Paris to present two collections.
ANDAM, founded by Nathalie Dufour 25 years ago, recently ramped up its coaching, widened its network of corporate partners and tapped them to provide know-how in addition to financial support, including Fashion GPS, the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation, Galeries Lafayette, MAC Cosmetics and Thecorner.com.
Past ANDAM winners include Anthony Vaccarello, Julien David and most recently Alexandre Mattiussi of Ami, who within the last 12 months did not leave a stone unturned.
“It’s been busy. We are now producing 50,000 to 60,000 pieces per season, so it’s no small brand anymore,” said Mattiussi.
This required adjustment. The Paris-based designer doubled the size of his atelier, hired a chief financial officer, staged his first proper runway show, entrusted KCD Worldwide in New York with his image in the U.S. — one of his top markets, in which he wished to grow more — and launched e-commerce.
“Every penny was spent with a purpose. But above all, the prize gave us credibility and easier access to a bigger network,” he said.