FRESH FASHION: British designers have complained for years that they have the talent but simply lack the cash to make it big. Well, now a few lucky newcomers will get the chance to prove it.

Fashion critic and author Colin McDowell is about to offer budding British designers the chance to be an overnight success. In September, McDowell will unveil the first London Fashion Fringe event, a contest open to all Britain-based designers that carries a grand prize of $180,000 to be used to set up a business. “This is not just about a fashion show. We are adamant about establishing new designers,” said McDowell in a telephone interview. “We’re looking for someone who has the spirit and determination to do fabulous, exciting things — and make clothes that people will want to wear. And we want the winner to go commercial very quickly.” Stylist Katie Grand will chair the designer selection committee, which in April will choose four to six finalists from among the applicants. The contest is open to anyone working in Britain who has not shown his or her collection publicly before. Each finalist will receive $18,000 to buy materials and accessories for a September runway show. The main financial supporter of the event is Red Bull, and applications will be accepted on the Web site fashionfringe.co.uk starting Jan. 12. McDowell, who has spent the past two years organizing the event, has raised about $1.8 million in sponsorship money.

NO TIME WASTED: Bernard Chaus Inc. began shipping Cynthia Steffe sportswear to retailers this morning. As reported, Chaus struck a deal last Friday to buy Steffe’s business from the failed LF Brands, and Richard Roberts, president of Steffe, spent Saturday moving the company’s merchandise from LF Brands’ warehouse into Chaus’ warehouse. The job was finished Monday, when all the parties got together.

Josephine [Chaus] went around to meet every sewer in the place,” said Roberts, referring to the Chaus chairman and chief executive officer.

This story first appeared in the January 6, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.