Byline: Leonard McCants

NEW YORK — The competition to showcase up-and-coming fashion designing talent is escalating, with the introduction next month of the Smirnoff International Fashion Awards to the U.S.
Deemed the oldest international event of its kind in its 17th year, Smirnoff joins several other programs, like the Moet & Chandon Designer Debut, Gen Art and the Perry Ellis Awards, hoping to introduce the world to the next Veronique Branquinho or Miguel Adrover.
This year’s Smirnoff awards finalists, selected from fashion schools around the world, come from 17 nations and five continents, including Australia, the U.K., Kenya, South Africa and the U.S.
One designer will be selected the Smirnoff International Young Designer of the Year during an awards program and runway presentation Nov. 15 at New York’s Pier 59.
The winner will also receive placement in the master’s degree program at Central St. Martins College of Art and Design in London, a $21,000 cash prize, sponsorship of the winner’s debut show and a year’s worth of public relations after graduation.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America is in the process of selecting a U.S. representative for the competition who should be announced by the end of the week, said an awards show spokesman.
A panel of judges, including designer Betsey Johnson and model Jodi Kidd, will critique entrants on this year’s theme of liberation. Participants will have to create two looks: an avant-garde design and a more commercial variant on the idea.
This year’s program will be hosted in conjunction with the CFDA Fund for AIDS and all the proceeds from the evening will benefit the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

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