In tune with the fact that everyone has a voice in the social media age, the LVMH Prize is to invite the general pubic to help choose 2021’s finalists.
“Everyone will be able to vote for their favorite candidate. This year, the public will become an expert in the LVMH Prize,” Delphine Arnault said in revealing the 20 semifinalists for the eighth edition of the LVMH Prize for Young Designers. Given health regulations related to the coronavirus pandemic, the designers will present their creations via a digital showroom from April 6 to 11 at LVMHprize.com.
“You will be able to discover their collections, their creative universe, their personalities on this rich, entertaining and interactive platform,” said Arnault, the force behind the initiative and a key talent scout at family-controlled LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the parent of brands including Louis Vuitton, Dior, Givenchy and Fendi.
The public will join a panel of around 70 experts conscripted to assess the semifinalists. Among newcomers to the expert panel this year are model Bella Hadid, actress Léa Seydoux and editors Samira Nasr, Aleksandra Woroniecka and Margaret Zhang of Harper’s Bazaar U.S., French Vogue and Vogue China, respectively.
The semifinalists of the prize are usually selected by a panel of experts during a showroom event held during Paris Fashion Week in March.
Eight finalists are to be declared toward the end of April. Tennis star Naomi Osaka has been named ambassador of this year’s edition.
The winner, to be decided later this year by a jury including some of LVMH’s top designers, will be awarded a cash prize of 300,000 euros plus a year of coaching from experts at LVMH. The winner of the runner-up Karl Lagerfeld Prize will walk away with 150,000 euros and will also benefit from a year of professional advice.
Arnault highlighted a record number of applications for the 2021 edition: 1,900 from more than 110 different countries.
“We noticed that all the candidates shared an optimistic, committed and resolutely future-oriented vision,” she said, also remarking on the playful use of color, innovative materials, knitwear and what she called “neo-sportswear” that blends in the codes of tailoring.
“Furthermore, all these young designers are focused on environmental issues: sustainable development, research into new materials, use of recycled fibers and the emergence of a new kind of craftsmanship,” Arnault enthused.
Among those competing are eight women’s wear designers, five men’s wear designers, six genderless labels and one making both men’s and women’s wear. The designers range in age from 25 to 39.
“Yes, it’s another trend of this edition: The will to merge men’s wear and women’s wear, but also to think about a more inclusive wardrobe,” Arnault told WWD. “It’s exciting to see how the new generation is seizing these issues of diversity, identity and equality.”
Reflecting diversity, the 20 semifinalists hail from South Africa, Nigeria, China, South Korea, Japan, Lebanon, Albania and Colombia, in addition to the U.S., the U.K., France and Italy.
Arnault noted that since the inception of the LVMH Prize in 2013, “we wanted this competition to be open to all candidates worldwide, not just those located in Milan, Paris, London or New York, traditional fashion capitals,” she said, calling the LVMH Prize “a driver of change for all of us in the fashion industry.”
“It allows us to listen to all these young talents from all over the world, to highlight different voices, and therefore to drive change in our industry. This is something we have been committed to in the group for many years,” she explained.
As ambassador, Osaka embodies this reality.
“Her journey is incredible,” Arnault marveled. “At only 23 years old, this fantastic tennis player is one of the top champions in the world. She is also personally committed artistically and expresses a strong interest for creativity, especially in fashion. Her career and involvement in today’s world are a model for all.”
Unique in its online-only application process, the LVMH Prize is open to designers under 40 years old who have presented and sold at least two collections of women’s, men’s or unisex ready-to-wear.
“These are complicated times, and now more than ever, all these designers need support, help and guidance in this changing world,” Arnault stressed.
As a last step, the finalists will gather either physically or virtually to face the jury, whose exact composition will be revealed later in April at the same time as the semifinalists are unveiled.
The prize has previously been awarded to Thebe Magugu — who won the 2019 edition — Doublet, Marine Serre, Grace Wales Bonner, Marques’Almeida and Thomas Tait. It has also boosted the careers of its runner-up special-prize winners, which include Rokh, Jacquemus and Hood by Air.
In 2020, LVMH pivoted the prize into a solidarity fund for the emerging brands in its orbit. Instead of vying for a main prize of 300,000 euros, the eight finalists — Ahluwalia, Casablanca, Chopova Lowena, Nicholas Daley, Peter Do, Sindiso Khumalo, Supriya Lele and Tomo Koizumi — each received 40,000 euros.
Meanwhile, former winners could apply for subsidies from a fund including the cash endowment for the Karl Lagerfeld Prize. The runner-up special prize was renamed in 2019 in honor of the late fashion designer, who designed fur and rtw at Fendi and was a judge on the LVMH Prize panel.
LVMH also rewards three graduates from fashion schools. This year, graduates from 2020 and 2021 will be considered. The winners will join one of the group’s houses for one year.