LVMH Prize 2021 Finalists

The Met Gala may have been canceled this year, but there is always something to look forward to in the world of fashion. Big brands are beginning to present their resort collections, but the fashion community has their eyes focused on seeing who will be the next rising star designer.

Every year, a number of organizations spotlight designers they think will be the next big thing. Fashion East is a London-based, non-profit program that annually offers three womenswear and three menswear designers, financial sponsorship, business mentoring, and the ability to present their collections to the press. The mission of the VFiles incubator is to connect, empower, and amplify global youth, and its Foundation offerings span across grants, incubation, education, R&D, and policy. The International Woolmark Prize awards fashion talents from around the globe who showcase Australian Merino wool. The British Fashion Council/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund recently announced Bethany Williams as its 2021 winner of £200,000. In an update to their past award structure, instead of announcing one winner and two runners-up, The Council of Fashion Designers of America has announced 10 winners of their CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund.

Now we await the next crop of winners. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton has whittled down 1,700 applicants for their LVMH Prize to just 9 finalists. Fashion Reverie takes a look at who is in the running.

Bianca Saunders (London, UK)

Bianca Saunders, an RCA alumna, is a distinctive new voice in menswear who specializes in proposing jarring twists to succinct garments, effectively redefining existing notions of masculinity. Influenced by her British and West Indian background, she addresses the tension between tradition and evolution in designs that reference classic streetwear and avant-garde couture. Staple jersey tee shirts are transformed with ruched flourishes, while experiments in textures blur the line between lounge pant and formal trouser. These carefully considered tweaks transform everyday basics into imposing statement pieces; all the while instilling an overarching sense of artisanal craftsmanship to augment otherwise straightforward constructions.

Charles de Vilmorin (Paris, France)

A graduate of Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne in June 2019, Charles de Vilmorin launched his eponymous brand at the end of April 2020. His prototypes are made in a very instinctive and spontaneous way. When he has an idea, the piece can be made in one go, overnight. His favorite techniques are painting on fabric, patchwork, and printing. His jackets are made of hand-printed waterproof polyester and include four layers of padding. The volume of the jackets is created by meticulous stitch work that gives relief to the pattern. The jackets are entirely made in a workshop in Paris.

Christopher John Rogers (New York, USA)

Christopher John Rogers, a 27-year-old from Baton Rouge, LA, launched his namesake label in 2016 upon graduation from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Based in New York City, the Christopher John Rogers brand exists to create emotional and sensitive clothing with a focus on effortful dressing, directed towards an individual with a strong sense of self. They deliver clothing with an emphasis on quality manufacturing and timeless appeal, whilst encouraging their customer to take up space. In 2019, Christopher was the recipient of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund’s top prize and was awarded the 2020 American Emerging Designer of the Year by the CFDA.

Conner Ives (London, UK)

Born and raised in Bedford, New York, Conner Ives moved to London in 2014 to attend Central Saint Martins, where he graduated with a BA fashion womenswear in the summer of 2020. He now resides in London where he runs his design studio.  His design aesthetic is nostalgic, yet forward thinking. His work always relates to a new Americana; an expansion of what it comes to represent. Through the use of vintage garments as raw material, there is a feeling of responsibility to elevate the identity of re-generated items; shaking away the connotation of craft as something non-desirable.

Kidsuper (New York, USA)

Colm Dillane is the multimedia artist and entertainer behind Kidsuper, a hybrid art brand with a storefront and studio in Brooklyn. Dillane started by selling tee shirts in his high school cafeteria then later went on to showcase his collection at Paris Fashion Week. He played a year of professional soccer in Brazil before attending college, then earned a mathematics degree from New York University. He went on to direct award-winning short films, music videos, and sold-out solo art fashion shows. A wide range of life experiences fueled Colm’s super hero imagination and need to create his own world through art and design. Kidsuper’s mission is to remind people that anything is possible.

Kika Vargas (Bogotá, Columbia)

Romantic silhouettes, striking patterns, and luxurious textiles define Kika Vargas’ poetic vision. After studying fashion design at Istituto Marangoni in Milan, the Bogotá-born designer spent two years working at Missoni before launching her namesake label in 2011. Architectural forms inspire Vargas’ collections—eccentric proportions and lively volumes result in an oeuvre defined by its aesthetic sensibility. Blouses feature exaggerated puff sleeves and idyllic ruffle trims while dresses boast Peter Pan collars and elongated-tiered constructions. Although each piece is a statement on its own, every garment is designed with everyday wearability in mind. Dramatic but not over-the-top, Kika Vargas’ riveting ready-to-wear creations speak to a romanticism fit for the contemporary era.

Lukhanyo Mdingi (Cape Town, South Africa)

Born in 1992 in the east coast of South Africa, Cape Town-based fashion designer Lukhanyo Mdingi graduated with a BTech fashion degree from Cape Peninsula University of Technology in 2014. With a profound interest in considered and sincere design, the intention is to ensure a pragmatic and mindful approach to product development; looking into human ingenuity as the provenance in creating design that is honest, steady and strong. By collaborating with artisans with a rich history in craft-making, the aim is to build a bridge by bringing artisan’s heritage to timeless premium pieces while providing a platform to support artisans, through continuous work and awareness.

Nensi Dojaka (London, UK)

Nensi Dojaka, 27, is an Albanian womenswear designer living and working in London. With a background in both contour and womenswear studies, Dojaka graduated from Central Saint Martins with an MA from the womenswear program in 2019. After showcasing the MA collection as part of the university’s LFW show, she garnered significant attention from the industry, resulting in a capsule collection with Ssense immediately after graduating. Dojaka was then selected to showcase under Fashion East and made her debut with them in 2020 with her fall 20 collection. For spring 2021, Dojaka was selected for the mentorship program by Alessandro Dell’Acqua x Tomorrow.

All images courtesy of their respective brands

Rui (Shanghai, China)

Rui Zhou was born in a small city in the middle of China surrounded by mountains and trees. This environment influenced her interest in zen Buddhism and the Wabi-Sabi Japanese aesthetic. Rui appreciates asymmetry, irregularity, and imperfection. She sees a garment as a second layer of skin and the space between skin and fabric, body and garment, shows “the power of fragility”. Rui studied BA at Tsinghua University in Beijing and in 2018 graduated from Parsons MFA fashion design and society program. She was selected for the H&M semi-final 2017, won “CFDA+2018 design graduate” and “Elaine Gold launch pad 3.0.”

To learn more about the LVMH Prize and this year’s finalists, go to https://www.lvmhprize.com/.                             

—Carl Ayers

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