Maria Grazia Chiuri, Bella Hadid and Delphine Arnault

PARIS — LVMH brought together the young talent nominated for its 2018 Prize on Thursday night, to present their work to the slew of journalists, buyers, photographers and other industry professionals who are in town for Paris Fashion Week.

Among them was Bella Hadid, who joined the prize’s committee earlier this year alongside fellow model Karlie Kloss.

“I’m so enthused by what these designers are doing and admire their creativity so much that I really wanted to be part of [the event],” said Hadid as she toured the room, visiting every booth to greet the designers and look at their collections.

An oversized coat with an inbuilt blazer by Polish designer Marta Jakubowski and tailored suits in bold shades by the London-based label Kwaidan Editions seemed to be catching her eye.

Sidney Toledano and Haider Ackermann

Sidney Toledano and Haider Ackermann 

This year’s nominees are standing behind the growing trend of gender-neutral fashion, with more than half of the participants focusing on unisex clothing.

“We started from a club space, Loverboy — which is now the name of the brand — being a queer club night, so it’s natural for us to have the clothes marketed as gender non-specific. The people we rub shoulders with on the dance floor are the people I want to dress, it’s a safe space for people to be who they want to be. To bring that into day time and sell our collections to international stores is really important to me,” said designer Charles Jeffrey.

Other nominees including the Swiss brand Ottolinger, which labels itself as a women’s wear brand, said that they still find that men buy their clothes. “We never set out to create gender-neutral clothing but it happens naturally, this is how customers shop these days. We are still a women’s brand but a man can easily wear one of our oversized knits — and they seem to love wearing our embroidered skinny jeans with cowboy boots,” said Ottolinger designer Cosima Gadient.

Humberto Leon, who has long been involved with the competition as a jury member, added that he’s been seeing the trend grow in strength over the last year.

“These are all young designers that have a new point of view, there’s a big shift in the system where you’re not thinking about genders anymore. Brands like Palomo Spain, which was here last season, was a real trailblazer for that. It’s definitely fresher to think about,” said Leon, who has also been rethinking the way he and partner Carol Lim approach buying and merchandizing at Opening Ceremony.

Simon Porte Jacquemus

Simon Porte Jacquemus 

“Opening Ceremony has been championing non-gender based clothing, we are now merchandizing the store so that it’s not necessarily [divided between] men’s and women’s, it addresses a mixed customer base,” he added.

The mix of this year’s finalists also highlighted that both young and more established labels are looking to benefit from the visibility the prize’s platform can provide.

“It’s interesting to see young names we’ve never heard of make it into the competition because we receive thousands of applications,” said Delphine Arnault, pointing to the success of last year’s winner, Marine Serre. “She had only done two collections before winning the prize. She just presented her third collection and I think she has talent and a vision to keep pushing her work forward.”

Bigger names with established retail networks, including Magda Butrym, A-Cold-Wall and Kwaidan Editions, are also looking to reap the benefits:

“We are in 20 stores already but have a lot to work out in terms of our production, growing our collections and reaching new customers,” said Kwaidan Editions’ Hung La.

Bella Hadid

Bella Hadid  Stephane Feugere/WWD

“You can reach a lot of amazing voices in the industry here, to get advice or even validation,” added Jeffrey, who is nominated for the second time. “It’s great to be back and talk about work that I’ve done in the last six months; I worked on sculptures and we hosted a performative show this year. It’s been nice to reiterate that and highlight the product as well.”

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