PARIS — Eco-conceived leather goods line Atxi x Sed Nove Studio was named the winner of the inaugural edition of the Ami x IFM Entrepreneurship Prize on Wednesday at the Institut Français de la Mode’s campus.
The Atxi x Sed Nove Studio collaboration comes thanks to Guillaume Hiriart Carriat, who founded leather goods label Atxi in homage to his grandfather and recently extended it with menswear designs presented last week at Tranoï, and Leopolda Contaux-Bellina, founder of leather specialist Sed Nove Studio, who is exploring an innovative leather assembling technique created by her mother.
Designs are assembled using specific laser cuts that allow bags and other leather items to be assembled without using threads or other elements, recently recognized as a métiers d’art specialized craft.
MA accessories design students Arita Krasniqi and Maria Kopytko were also involved in the line imagined for the prize.
The project received the top prize from Alexandre Mattiussi, the brand’s founder and creative director; and Nicolas Santi-Weil, its chief executive officer, in the presence of jury members that, beyond Mattiussi and Santi-Weil, included writer Leïla Slimani; Sarah Andelman, founder of consulting agency Just an Idea, and musician Max Sokolinski.
Rounding out this first jury were Elisha Karmitz, managing director of Mk2 Group, a family-owned production, distribution and art-house cinemas company; Deborah Papiernik, senior vice president, new business and strategic alliances at Ubisoft; GQ France’s head of editorial content Pierre-Alexandre M’Pelé, better known by social handle Pam_Boy; Delphine Plisson, founder of trendy eatery and specialty grocery store Maison Plisson, and singer-songwriter, Irma Pany.
The jury was wowed by “the use of an innovative manual technique, recognized as a métier d’art, that gives back value to handcraft and that their story was very clear and well expressed, sincere [and] authentic,” said author Leila Slimani.
“Innovation isn’t just new crazy technologies, it’s new ways to work existing products, noble materials,” added Santi-Weil, noting that the leather goods presented had touched the jury, who kept wanting to handle the pieces.
Hiriart Carriat and Contaux-Bellina will benefit from a year’s mentoring, provided in turn by each member of the jury on topics such as business plans, digital strategy and marketing.
Contaux-Bellina said she hopes to get “their perspective since they come from such varied universes, so I am curious to see what attracted each of them to our project and perhaps enlarge our horizon.”
“[They] can give us keys for development, which is essential to any brand,” added Hiriart Carriat, who wanted to see how far they could push this collaboration that was sparked on the very first day of the IFM’s entrepreneurship certificate course. “It’s about seeing the field of possibilities we can do together. It’s exciting to be accompanied and heard by such profiles,” he continued.
After drawn-out debates, a surprise runner-up prize was awarded to Studio Paillette, which “reoptimizes” unsold stock from brands into new and eye-catching designs. A percentage of the sale of these pieces is given back to participating brands, who have donated the merchandise to the project.
Founder Léa Germano felt it was “huge” because the brand “is at a critical juncture, where [Studio Paillette] just had a launch event and needs to meet its audience and find a public [in order] to carry the voice of rental because [that market] had been damaged by earlier projects,” that created reticence among brands.
Overall, the jury was impressed by the “ease, the energy, the enthusiasm of the candidates [for] projects that live truly within them,” according to IFM’s general manager Xavier Romatet.
Mattiussi has been looking to see a spark in the eyes of the finalists when they were presenting. “Because that’s the [key]. Your project has to be stronger than anything [naysayers tell you],” he said, recounting how he dropped a promising career in the studio of prominent luxury labels to launch Ami.
Beyond that, strong storytelling was also a must. “Presenting to a jury is like the trailer of a film. You have to tell yourself ‘I really want to see this film,’” he said.
Slimani agreed, likening a fashion purchase to “a narrative with a beginning, middle and ending, with characters that could be you.”
“It’s not about fashion people giving prizes to other fashion people,” said Romatet, noting that fashion today goes well beyond clothes. “I found it interesting and innovative to have people coming from different universes, judging along criteria and principles that are very different, so [to] give an openness [to the scope of advice].”
The Ami x IFM Entrepreneurship Prize is open to all the school’s students, regardless of their specialty or year.
Ten projects were shortlisted for this year’s edition, all the result of collaborations between students with entrepreneurs incubated at the IFM’s Fashion Entrepreneur Center.
They included fashion label Séléné Hélios, which recycles unused textiles from the luxury hospitality industry; NFT strategic consultancy startup EPOC; OST, a laundry-cum-social space aiming to give a second life to items through the use of dyes; and body conscious label Aefory, which aims to address fluctuations in a woman’s silhouette through design features, inspired by founder Marine Jacquelin’s endometriosis diagnosis.
“No project was a miss,” said Santi-Weil, adding that he hoped this would inspire would-be entrepreneurs to reach out to other creatives, which happens too little in Paris despite having no shortage of creative talent. “See you next year,” he added.