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GETTING THE MESSAGE OUT: Anton Belinskiy’s sweater said it all: “Poor But Cool.” He’s one of 26 young designers who displayed their wares at the headquarters of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton on Wednesday night, all vying for a cash prize of 300,000 euros, or $335,560 at current exchange, plus a year of coaching from the luxury group.

There was a mood of camaraderie among the designers, despite the walls separating their stands and all the jockeying for attention as members from the expert panel, who must whittle down the crop to eight finalists, toured the room along with top LVMH brass.

This story first appeared in the March 5, 2015 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“It’s really exciting to see all these great talents here, and to see all the energy,” said Delphine Arnault, executive vice president of Louis Vuitton and the woman who conceived the prize as a powerful talent scout and advocate for young designers at the luxury giant her family controls. “It’s already great for them and I hope it’ll help their careers.”

The 45 experts have two days to inspect collections and meet designers before casting their vote. Finalists are to face a jury whose members include Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs, Nicolas Ghesquière, Raf Simons, Phoebe Philo, Riccardo Tisci, Jonathan Anderson and Kenzo creative directors Humberto Leon and Carol Lim.

Wry commentary on fashion abounded in the collections, with Xiao Li welcoming visitors wearing an oversize sweater bearing the acronyms GMO, OMG, a reference to the fact that hit designs in fashion tend to multiply like genetically modified tomatoes.

Then she parted the clothes on a rack to show a coat with buttons spelling out another message: “Stay — Healthy — Avoid — Fashion.” The London-based designer then let out a yelp of laughter, lest anyone think she meant it.

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