PARIS — The jury of the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers is skewing a little more female this year.
Maria Grazia Chiuri, artistic director of women’s collections at Dior, will join an all-star lineup including Karl Lagerfeld, Jonathan Anderson and Nicolas Ghesquière to judge the fourth edition of the contest, which today opens its site to applications from anyone under the age of 40 who has produced and sold at least two women’s or men’s ready-to-wear collections.
Meanwhile, the committee of experts that preselects the eight finalists for the prize, to be awarded in June, is gaining seven members. They are sound designer Michel Gaubert; Anne-Florence Schmitt, editor in chief at Madame Figaro; writer Derek Blasberg; retired Japanese footballer Hidetoshi Nakata; retailer Ikram Goldman; Dennis Freedman, creative director at Barneys New York, and Frédéric Bodenes, art director at Paris department store Le Bon Marché.
They will join 35 other journalists, stylists, buyers, photographers and other fashion professionals on the committee, among them art director Fabien Baron and editors Cathy Horyn and Jefferson Hack.
The winning candidate will walk away with a grand prize of 300,000 euros, or $320,000, plus a year of coaching from experts at luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, parent of fashion houses including Louis Vuitton, Loewe, Givenchy, Berluti and Marc Jacobs.
Unique in its online-only application process, the prize usually attracts about 1,000 entries, according to Delphine Arnault, the force behind the initiative and a key talent scout at family-controlled LVMH.
“It’s a very open prize. There are no nationality barriers. We believe that everyone has the means to access a computer and send an application,” she told WWD in an interview. Applicants have until Feb. 5 to enter.
“What we are looking for mainly is creative talent, a fresh and unique point of view, a design vision and product that is different from what is already on the market,” said Arnault, second-in-command at Louis Vuitton, LVMH’s largest and most profitable brand.
The group plans to fly around 25 semifinalists to the French capital to showcase their designs at its headquarters on Avenue Montaigne on March 2 to 3 during Paris Fashion Week for the members of the expert committee and other invited guests to inspect.
“In two days, they will meet many people who can further their careers,” said Arnault, noting that attendees will include stylists, editors, photographers, models, makeup artists and buyers.
In mid-June, the finalists of the 2016 edition are to face the jury. In addition to Arnault, Chiuri, Lagerfeld, Anderson and Ghesquière, it includes Marc Jacobs; Céline’s Phoebe Philo; Givenchy’s couturier Riccardo Tisci; Kenzo designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim; Jean-Paul Claverie, an adviser to LVMH chairman and chief executive officer Bernard Arnault and the group’s director of sponsorships, and Pierre-Yves Roussel, chairman and ceo of LVMH Fashion Group.
Arnault said a key aspect of the prize was the yearlong mentorship provided by LVMH executives on topics such as pricing, distribution, product development and manufacturing, accounting and legal issues.
“We remain in close contact with them, but it’s with the aim of helping young designers. We don’t require anything from them in exchange,” said Arnault. “We are a leader in our industry and it’s our responsibility to help identify young talents and to help them grow.”
The past three winners are Thomas Tait, Marques’ Almeida and Wales Bonner, and the prize has also boosted the careers of its runner-up special-prize winners: Hood by Air, Jacquemus, Vejas and Miuniku.
Also today, LVMH opens up applications for fashion graduates through May 14. Each year, LVMH awards three winners the chance to join the creative team of one of the group’s houses for a year, as well as a grant of 10,000 euros, or $10,640. Past winners have gone on to be hired by Givenchy and Kenzo.
Prizes for young designers have multiplied in recent years as fashion’s biggest players jockey to do good, and forge relations with potential future recruits.
LVMH also supports the ANDAM Fashion Awards; the International Fashion and Photography Festival in Hyères, France; Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design in London, and the French Culture Ministry’s credit advance program for young designers.