PARIS — A Turkish designer based in London, a Russian working in New York and a South Korean-American living in Tokyo: The list of 21 semifinalists for this year’s edition of the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers shows that fashion has no borders.
“Young designers are extremely mobile nowadays,” said Delphine Arnault, the force behind the prize initiative and a key talent scout at family-controlled LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
Among those competing for a grand prize of 300,000 euros, or $320,000 at current exchange, plus a year of coaching from experts at luxury giant LVMH are 10 men’s wear designers, nine women’s wear designers and two unisex labels. LVMH is the parent of fashion houses including Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Givenchy and Berluti.
“The importance of men’s wear is growing. It will be interesting to see whether that near-balance between men’s wear and women’s wear designers is maintained once the eight finalists are selected,” Arnault said.
British designer Grace Wales Bonner last year became the first men’s wear designer to take home the grand prize in the competition, which was launched in 2013. The previous winners were Thomas Tait and Marques’ Almeida.
Among the candidates for the 2017 edition are Dilara Findikoglu, a Central Saint Martins graduate of Turkish origin known for her rebellious, metal-inspired aesthetic; Maria Jahnkoy, a Siberian-born designer whose latest collection for her New York-based label, Jahnkoy, used recycled fabrics sourced in her Brooklyn neighborhood, and Ambush, the Tokyo-based line of jewelry and apparel created by MC, DJ and music producer Verbal, who is Japanese-born of South Korean descent, and his wife Yoon, who was born in South Korea and raised in the U.S.
In total, six of the semifinalists are graduates of Central Saint Martins, the London school with which LVMH has a longstanding relationship. They include Glaswegian designer Charles Jeffrey, whose Charles Jeffrey Loverboy brand encompasses a fashion label and a club night; Daniel W. Fletcher, who uses his London-based men’s wear brand to convey political messages, and Kozaburo Akasaka, whose first stand-alone men’s presentation last month channeled a punk rocker sensibility.
LVMH recently revealed another significant investment that will provide additional scholarships and fund an original sustainability and innovation program at the college. “Saint Martins is always well represented. They always turn out very high-grade students, whether it’s the winners of the LVMH Prize, the designers in our jury or those working in the LVMH group,” Arnault noted.
Nabil Nayal returns as a semifinalist after being short-listed for the 2015 prize.
The other semifinalists are Abasi Rosborough, a New York-based label designed by Abdul Abasi and Greg Rosborough; Angus Chiang, a Taiwanese designer; Atlein, a Paris-based label by French designer Antonin Tron; Blindness, the South Korean label designed by KyuYong Shin and JiSun Park; Denmark’s Cecilie Bahnsen; GmbH designed by a Berlin-based collective cofounded by Benjamin Alexander Huseby and Serhat Isik; Katherine Mavridis, an Australian knitwear designer based in New York; New Zealand-based sustainable clothing brand Maggie Marilyn designed by Maggie Hewitt; French-Belgian designer Marine Serre; British men’s wear designer Martine Rose; British women’s wear designer Molly Goddard; Palomo Spain by Spanish designer Alejandro Gómez Palomo; Irish designer Richard Malone, and Japanese designer Teppei Fujita’s Sulvam line.
The semifinalists, selected by an internal committee, are to travel to the French capital with their collections and display them at LVMH headquarters on March 2 and 3 during Paris Fashion Week. There they will face a committee of more than 40 experts charged with selecting the eight finalists.
Arnault said Kendall Jenner recently confirmed she would be joining journalists, stylists, buyers, photographers and other fashion professionals on the committee.
As a last step, the finalists will gather in mid-June at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris to face a jury stacked with LVMH fashion stars: Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri; Karl Lagerfeld of Fendi; Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquière; Marc Jacobs; Loewe artistic director Jonathan Anderson; Céline’s Phoebe Philo, and Kenzo designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, among others.
Arnault noted that the selection was whittled down from a record 1,200 entries. Unique in its online-only application process, the LVMH Prize is open for anyone under age 40 who has produced and sold at least two women’s or men’s ready-to-wear collections.
“I think it’s great they are traveling to be here, because it’s always inspiring to meet them, understand their personality and the philosophy and vision behind their work, and to see the product in real life,” she said. “I really hope that being exposed to the press, the buyers and key personalities from the industry will boost their careers.”