The LVMH Prize finalists.

PARIS — LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton has pivoted its annual Prize for Young Designers into a solidarity fund for the emerging brands in its orbit.

Like the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which repurposed its CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund initiative into a grant for brands facing severe financial hardship because of the coronavirus pandemic, LVMH has canceled the final of the seventh edition of its prize, initially scheduled for June 5.

Instead of vying for a main prize of 300,000 euros, the eight finalists will each receive 40,000 euros, Jean-Paul Claverie, an adviser to LVMH chairman and chief executive officer Bernard Arnault and head of corporate philanthropy at LVMH, told WWD in an exclusive interview.

“The Prize stands in solidarity with young designers, and it’s a helping hand which we hope will allow this entire community to get through this period and to see the future in a more positive light,” said Claverie, invoking the “family spirit” of the award.

“It’s a financial help, but also a very important moral help to know that they are not alone. We are there for them, especially in hard times,” he added.

This year’s finalists are Priya Ahluwalia of Ahluwalia; Charaf Tajer of Casablanca; Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena of Chopova Lowena; Nicholas Daley; Peter Do; Sindiso Khumalo; Supriya Lele, and Tomotoka Koizumi of Tomo Koizumi.

Under normal circumstances, they would have faced a star-studded jury including, for the first time, Rihanna, Virgil Abloh and Stella McCartney.

Meanwhile, the runner-up Karl Lagerfeld Prize, which usually comes with a cash endowment of 150,000 euros, will be funneled into a fund in aid of young fashion designers. Claverie said this would be supplemented by additional prize budget money, although he declined to give a global amount for the fund.

“The full resources of the prize will go towards the fund, which will total far more than the 150,000 euros of the Karl Lagerfeld Prize,” the executive explained.

The grant will benefit the 13 previous winners of both the main award and its runners-up upon application. Details of the program will be released at a later date.

Launched in 2013 and spearheaded by Delphine Arnault, second-in-command at Louis Vuitton and a key talent scout at the luxury group her family controls, the LVMH Prize has previously been awarded to Thebe Magugu, Doublet, Marine Serre, Grace Wales Bonner, Marques’Almeida and Thomas Tait.

It has also boosted the careers of its runner-up special-prize winners: Rokh, Kozaburo Akasaka, Vejas, Jacquemus, Hood By Air and Miuniku. Last year, the special prize was renamed the Karl Lagerfeld Prize in honor of the late fashion designer, who was a judge on the LVMH Prize panel. Its first recipient was Israeli designer Hed Mayner.

“Since its launch, the LMVH Prize has promoted and nurtured young talent. Each year, it places the spotlight on young designers from all over the world and supports the development of their companies,” Delphine Arnault said in a statement.

“In this challenging context, this fund in aid of young fashion designers highlights the main mission of the LVMH Prize by supporting our former winners,” she added.

Claverie noted that LVMH’s response to the sanitary crisis has been wide-ranging.

The luxury conglomerate has ordered 40 million masks from a Chinese industrial supplier to address the shortage in French hospitals. In addition, it has retooled its perfumes and cosmetics production units to manufacture and distribute large quantities of hydroalcoholic gel.

Further leveraging its sourcing and logistics power, the group has purchased 261 respirators from China. Louis Vuitton and Baby Dior employees have started producing masks in France, while Vuitton has repurposed a ready-to-wear workshop in Paris to make protective gowns for hospitals.

Claverie said a strong community has developed around the LVMH Prize, which has received around 10,000 applications since its creation. In addition to its jury, which features top designers like Nicolas Ghesquière, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Jonathan Anderson, the prize counts on a panel of 68 experts from across the industry, including retailers, models and fashion editors.

“The prize is a family, it’s a community. There’s a complicity. We share the same values,” he said, predicting this community would rally around the former prize winners, whose brands stand to be disproportionately impacted by the global economic crisis triggered by COVID-19.

“Young brands are very fragile, and every euro, every bit of help counts for the survival of the business. We are offering not just financial aid, but also advice, logistics and mentoring to the community of former prize winners,” Claverie said. “We will study each case individually.”

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