Eloquii and The Curvy Fashionista revealed the winners of The Cultivate Award, an initiative that supports and nurtures the next generation of BIPOC indie designers in the plus-size fashion community, on Sunday evening.
The winner, Melissa Mercedes, will be awarded a grand prize of a $10,000 grant, a one-year professional mentorship program and a capsule collection designed with and sold on Eloquii.com in 2022.
The two runners-up are A’Shontay Hubbard and Courtney Smith, both of whom are awarded a $2,500 grant each from Eloquii, a $1,000 scholarship grant from Fiverr and a legal and brand protection strategy session from The Influencer Attorney.
Hubbard, founder of Christian Omeshun, is the “Voter’s Choice” winner, which was selected by the public during the month of April. She will receive an additional cash prize of $1,000.
Eloquii is owned by Walmart.
Mercedes founded her eponymous indie plus-size label as a completely self-taught designer in 2016. Although she graduated with a Master’s degree in school counseling and helped prepare students for job interviews, she realized she wanted to concentrate more on empowering people through fashion. She started by styling friends and family and created a styling company called RetroBohoChic.
She realized there was a lack of representation in dresses for women of all sizes. After having to make her own dress to attend the Latin Grammys in 2016, she started her own company. She has since designed for such celebrities as Laverne Cox, Lauren Ash and Nina Parker.
Hubbard founded her indie plus-size label, Christian Omeshun, after always being the tallest girl in school growing up and being fed up with the dressing room experience for women’s sizes 14 and up. She has designed for actress Raven Goodwin and producer and actress Brely Evans.
Runner-up Smith founded her plus-size design label, Courtney Noelle, using her last paycheck. Born and raised in the Bronx, N.Y., she is a completely self-taught designer with a history degree and had expected to go into finance. She has designed for Lizzo, Danielle Brooks and Tess Holiday.
Judges were Lindsay People Wagner, editor in chief of The Cut; fashion stylist Timothy Snell; Liris Crosse, winner of “Project Runway,” and Yesenia Torres, Eloquii’s director of design. The contestants were evaluated on inspiration, originality, innovation and aesthetic.
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