The 20 semifinalists for the 2021 LVMH Prize for Young Designers hail from a variety of points on the globe, and ply a range of fashion looks, often rooted in sustainability and gender-fluid design.
Having freelanced for brands including Yeezy, A-Cold-Wall and Missoni, London designer Alicia Robinson launched her knitwear brand AGR with a party. After creating custom-knitted pieces for a group of friends to wear to the Notting Hill Carnival in 2018, she was contacted by Canadian online retailer Ssense and rolled out the collection with them.
In addition to her signature cotton striped ribs and dyed cargo pants, her fall collection featured hand-sprayed cable-knit jumpers in rainbow hues, patchwork tracksuits and puffer jackets. Robinson studied at the Chelsea College of Art in London.
Drawing on her British and West Indian background, Bianca Saunders is not afraid to explore the more vulnerable side of men. Her fall collection was influenced by photographer Man Ray, and stretched fabric imagery by Erwin Wurm, and featured her second collaboration with Wrangler.
“My main aim for the brand was to create that balance. You get the really over-masculine guy and effeminate guy existing in the same world. Even the pieces can be seen as slightly more feminine. I think this is how I create the energy that brings something different, and more things to the men’s wear conversation,” the Royal College of Art graduate told WWD recently.
CHARLES DE VILMORIN
Since launching his brand in April 2020 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Charles de Vilmorin has enjoyed a meteoric rise, making his debut at Paris Couture Week in January, and subsequently being named creative director of French fashion house Rochas.
Known for his colorful paintings tinged with darkness, the French designer has made a splash with quilted bomber jackets and sculptural hourglass dresses inspired by the work of artist Niki de Saint Phalle. In line with his genderless aesthetic, he frequently uses makeup and body painting to transform models into avatars for the fantastical creatures he draws.
CHRISTOPHER JOHN ROGERS
The winner of last year’s CFDA American Emerging Designer of the Year award, Christopher John Rogers is best known for dressing celebrities like Cardi B, Rihanna and Lizzo in his colorful creations on the red carpet, although he is equally comfortable designing daywear, such as the purple coat U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris wore on Inauguration Day.
His spring 2021 collection marked his first foray into knitwear, including a rainbow knit dress with target-like concentric circles at the breasts that was featured on the cover of the April edition of British Vogue.
American-born designer Conner Ives started garnering attention even before finishing his design degree at Central Saint Martins, after sharing his designs on Instagram and scoring commissions from the likes of Adwoa Aboah, who wore one of his creations to the Met Gala in 2017.
He has produced two capsule collections for British retailer Browns using vintage T-shirts sourced at charity shops, and was part of the design team that launched Rihanna’s since-paused clothing label Fenty. “I always look at American sportswear,” he told WWD in 2018. “I love a humble piece of clothing, I think there’s something really honest about that and the idea that it comes from something preexistent.”
Federico Cina founded his genderless label in 2019 with the ambition of bringing his brand of romance to the world of tailoring. After studying at Polimoda in Florence, he got a fashion design master’s degree in Osaka, Japan, worked at Brooks Brothers between Italy and New York, and then at Emilio Pucci in Milan.
The Italian designer uses experimental techniques, like turning garments inside out, and sprinkles in cultural references, such as prints inspired by typical tablecloths from his native region of Romagna. For his fall 2021 collection, he reworked tailoring staples with a soft hand and a delicate spirit, showing chic padded blazers and deconstructed field jackets crafted in suiting fabrics, alongside pleated pants cut in generous silhouettes.
Brooklyn-based Colm Dillane’s artist collective KidSuper burst onto the Paris scene in July when he made his virtual debut at Paris Men’s Fashion Week with a stop-motion short film made using modified Barbie dolls dressed in miniature versions of his streetwear designs (he even had dolls in the likeness of the Obamas and Queen Elizabeth II in his front row.)
“I was selling T-shirts in a high school cafeteria, then on an ironing board on the street in SoHo, then turned my college dorm room into a store, then moved into a store front with all my friends, then f–ing Paris fashion week,” the designer wrote on his YouTube channel. A collaboration with Puma rapidly followed, and Dillane’s wide-ranging plans include making a film and building a soccer field.
After studying art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and fashion at Istituto Marangoni in Milan, Bogotá-born Kika Vargas worked for Missoni before launching her namesake collection in 2011. Her outfits are made in Colombia, with signature silhouettes including voluminous midi dresses with oversized puff sleeves and romantic ruffles, alongside playful printed co-ords.
Vargas was among the designers selected for Bergdorf Goodman’s BG Radar platform for emerging talent last year, and the brand is also carried by retailers including Matchesfashion.com, Harrods, Nordstrom, Browns and Ssense.
LAGOS SPACE PROGRAMME
As a nonbinary, queer, Yoruba and Black designer, Nigeria-born Adeju Thompson, who goes by the pronouns they/them, conceived Lagos Space Programme as a project-based fashion brand. The fall collection, shown during Milan Men’s Fashion Week in January, was about breaking the rules of normative fashion.
“It really starts with me creating clothes I want to wear. It’s also very important for me to do this via the cultural lens,” Thompson told WWD. The line combines traditional dressing with a contemporary sensibility: floor-length wrap skirts paired with shredded knit vests and deconstructed blazers, or voluminous Bermuda pants layered over apron-style elongated tops with unfinished hems.
Established in 2015, the Lukhanyo Mdingi women’s and men’s wear brand blends sartorial elegance with artisanal craft. “Our intention is to simply create a body of work that has a sense of soulfulness to it, work that is of substance that is strong and that is solid — something for the forever,” the brand says on its website.
The South African designer has shown at New York Fashion Week and as part of the Pitti Uomo trade show. His latest collection is a tribute to his friend Nicholas Coutts, who died in 2019, incorporating the late designer’s signature handwoven techniques.
A graduate of Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo, Taku Midorikawa launched his genderless brand Midorikawa in 2017, melding traditional Japanese techniques and skillful craftsmanship in his striking constructions, frequently accented with raw hems.
The label is distributed mainly in Japan, with stockists including Dover Street Market Ginza, United Arrows & Sons, and department store Isetan in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district.
An Albanian women’s wear designer based in London, Nensi Dojaka graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2019. After showcasing her graduate collection, she created a capsule collection with Ssense and was selected to show as part of emerging designer support platform Fashion East.
Dojaka was selected for the first edition of the mentorship program launched last fall by No.21 founder and designer Alessandro Dell’Acqua and Tomorrow London. Her spring collection featured lingerie-inspired slipdresses with graphic cutouts and sensual strap details that have caught the eye of fashion editor Carine Roitfeld, among others.
POST ARCHIVE FACTION
Having studied industrial and spatial design, Dongjoon Lim started out as a user experience designer for fashion companies. Having become a self-trained men’s wear designer, he cofounded Post Archive Faction with Sookyo Jeong in 2018, specializing in avant-garde sportswear and futuristic outerwear.
The brand recently staged an exhibition at Seoul’s Arario Gallery that blurs the distinctions between art, fashion, furniture and design.
Cynthia Merhej returned to her native Beirut in 2016 to found Renaissance Renaissance, her women’s wear brand, after studying at the Royal College of Art and Central Saint Martins in London. She is the third of a generation of women to begin her own atelier, following in the footsteps of her great-grandmother and mother.
Characterized by ruching, ruffles and daring volumes, her clothes have a romantic sensibility, drawing on inspirations from Ottoman clothing and her native Beirut, whose purse-shaped bread sold as street food directly inspired her Ka’ak bag.
Created by Andreas Steiner, Rier offers timeless unisex pieces inspired by his roots in the South Tyrol. The 36-year-old designer studied in Milan and Paris and worked for Prada, Miu Miu and Louis Vuitton before striking out on his own.
A recent lineup featured a range of designs with a miniature floral repeat embroidery inspired by one worn by the men of his village. Steiner blends a raw, minimal aesthetic with a mountain spirit.
Rui Zhou dressed Dua Lipa for the cover of Rolling Stone; she looks like she was paint bombed with fabric, for Zhou’s intricate, web-like bodysuits and dresses bare as much as they cover. Small knit segments are stretched out and tethered with beads, creating unique geometries of fabric and flesh.
Based in Shanghai, the 27-year-old designer graduated in 2018 from Parsons MFA Fashion Design and Society program. She was a semifinalist for an H&M competition in 2017.
A professional choreographer from northeast London, Nash has been developing a unique way of cutting based on body movement. He graduated with a BA in Performance Design from Central Saint Martins in 2015 and attended the MA in men’s wear at the Royal College of Art in 2018.
His clothes fall somewhere between luxury, activewear and streetwear, and are produced as limited-edition styles.
While based in Shanghai, Shuting Qiu graduated from the Royal Academy in Antwerp, and her free-spirited fashions skew closest to the more extroverted members of the original Antwerp Six, Dries Van Noten and Walter Van Beirendonck, with her colorful clash of prints and bold shapes.
Her heroines include Virginia Woolf and Pina Bausch. Qiu won the Special Prize at the BIG Design Award Japan, and was a finalist of the H&M Design Award.
Takuya Morikawa, 39, made his official debut on the Paris schedule in January, showing a fall men’s wear collection incorporating blurred, moody prints and creative tailoring.
The Japanese designer taught himself how to make clothes in high school and went on to study design at Bunka Fashion College. He spent time at Issey Miyake before launching his brand Taakk, and puts an emphasis on fabric development.
Wed is the London-based women’s wear brand founded in 2019 by designers Amy Trinh and Evan Phillips, both 30-year-old Central Saint Martins graduates. The duo’s brand of custom-made Surrealist bridalwear and eveningwear is known for innovative draping, historical references and sustainable practices.
The designers employ deadstock textiles and repurpose forgotten, vintage or heirloom dresses into new creations.