PARIS — The LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers on Friday unveiled the nine finalists for this year’s award, spotlighting a group of pragmatic designers grappling with the major challenges facing society.
Reflecting the broad international reach of the competition, which marks its 10th anniversary this year, finalists come from the four corners of the globe but are mostly based in Europe and the U.S., with three working out of the U.K., three out of Italy, two in the U.S. and one in France.
The U.S.-based contingent consists of Luar by Raul Lopez and Diotima by Jamaican designer Rachel Scott. They are joined by London-based brands Aaron Esh; Bettter by Ukrainian designer Julie Pelipas, and Paolina Russo, headed by Canadian designer Paolina Russo and French designer Lucile Guilmard.
Rounding out the group are Paris-based designer Burç Akyol; Italian designer Luca Magliano’s Magliano label, Quira by Veronica Leoni and Setchu by Satoshi Kuwata, which is based in Milan.
Reflecting the new mood of realism at Paris Fashion Week, the finalists selected by a jury of experts and a public vote offered credible wardrobe choices that reflected concerns with gender identity, the environment and craftsmanship.
“The semifinal of the 10th edition of this prize has highlighted a great maturity in the approach and work of the designers,” said Delphine Arnault, the force behind the initiative and a key talent scout at family-controlled luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, parent of brands including Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Givenchy, Loewe and Dior, where she is chairman and chief executive officer.
Several of the finalists worked in a variety of luxury and contemporary brands before striking out on their own, and have carefully considered every aspect of their label, from sourcing and production to marketing and image.
“Cultural diversity, celebration of traditional crafts and creative audacity define this selection. Naturally, the finalists are fully engaged in dealing with environmental issues and play with the boundaries between menswear and womenswear. Their expertise, their creativity, their uniqueness and their commitment have truly impressed me,” Arnault said.
The annual design prize has helped propel the careers of such talents as Marine Serre, Nensi Dojaka, Thebe Magugu, Simon Porte Jacquemus and Grace Wales Bonner. Last year’s winner was British designer Steven Stokey-Daley with his S.S. Daley menswear label, whose fans include Harry Styles.
The grand prize winner receives a 300,000-euro endowment and mentorship by LVMH teams in such areas as sustainability, communications, marketing, legal, production and finance. The winner of the Karl Lagerfeld Prize receives a 150,000-euro allocation plus one year of mentorship from LVMH experts.
To qualify, designers must be between the ages of 18 and 40 and have at least two commercialized womenswear, menswear or genderless collections under their belt. In addition, three fashion school graduates are to be awarded 10,000 euros each and a one-year placement in the design studio of an LVMH brand.
The 2023 edition of the prize drew a record of more than 2,400 applicants. A jury made up of LVMH’s famous creative directors will ultimately select the victors ahead of a prize ceremony on June 7 at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris.
“Ten years ago, when I had the idea for this prize, we could not have imagined this journey. Today, the LVMH Prize is an international and essential player in design. Each year, the number of entries increases: it is very difficult to choose between them, given the quality of the candidates and of their creations,” Arnault said.
Barely a year after launching his namesake brand, London-based designer Aaron Esh has made a name for himself with his romance-tinged menswear, which reflects his aesthetic influences as much as the realities of living in post-Brexit Britain.
Esh studied menswear at London College of Fashion before earning a scholarship from Alexander McQueen to complete his MA at Central Saint Martins. His designs contrast traditional tailoring with constructions and details borrowed from the womenswear lexicon. Examples include puff-skirt jeans, a halter-neck waistcoat and hoodies with tie fastenings.
“I look at subversion of the masculine archetype, showing there can be allure to menswear with softness and elegance — redefining what masculinity means within a wardrobe,” he said.
Ukrainian designer Julie Pelipas launched her womenswear brand Bettter on the cusp of the coronavirus pandemic, and had barely overcome that hurdle when the Russian invasion threw her country into chaos. Since then, she has focused on keeping her team safe, in addition to creating a platform showcasing Ukrainian creatives in need of work.
The former fashion director of Vogue Ukraine conceived Bettter as an upcycling system that reworks secondhand garments and deadstock materials. Her first collection focused on the signature oversize suits she was often photographed wearing to fashion shows, and she’s since expanded to more casual pieces, including shirts made from vintage towels and reconstructed T-shirts.
“I just wanted people to know that upcycling can be really sexy,” Pelipas told WWD. Now based in London, she’s looking to make connections that will allow the label to scale and become a solution for the stock currently clogging brands.
Having discovered fashion via his father, a tailor, Burç Akyol gave up a budding acting career to enroll at the École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. After stints at Christian Dior and Balenciaga, he worked alongside Esteban Cortázar at the Colombian designer’s namesake brand. In 2019, Akyol left to create his own unisex label.
Akyol is known for creations that marry sexiness with austerity. His signature metal hands bustier has been modeled for editorial shoots by celebrities including Cate Blanchett and Cardi B, while Kendall Jenner and Elizabeth Debicki have worn his designs on the red carpet.
For him, challenging rules through fashion is a way to trigger change. “I don’t want to gender clothing. It’s about you being comfortable with what you’re wearing. It has a gender: the one that you choose,” he told WWD.
Rachel Scott launched her womenswear brand Diotima during the pandemic, after watching how the shutdown of the fashion industry impacted workers on the bottom rungs of the supply chain. Based in Brooklyn, New York, she saw an opportunity to provide work for women specializing in traditional crochet techniques in her home country Jamaica.
Having studied fashion design at Istituto Marangoni in Italy, Scott began her career as an assistant designer at Costume National before moving to the U.S., where she worked with brands such as J. Mendel, Elizabeth and James, and Rachel Comey.
Named after Diotima of Mantinea, an ancient Greek character in Plato’s “Symposium,” her label balances artisanal, sensual styles with mannish, sophisticated tailoring, referencing dance hall and her Jamaican roots. “I seek to present a seductive and nuanced vision of Caribbean style, looking to the future while remaining grounded in history and my experience as a Jamaican,” she said.
Raul Lopez is on a roll. The New York-based designer recently won the CFDA’s American Accessory Designer of the Year Award, and shopping search platform Lyst named Luar as the Brand to Watch in its “Year in Fashion 2022” report, citing a 106 percent increase in demand for its popular Ana bag.
Lopez, who also cofounded cult-favorite label Hood By Air with Shayne Oliver, channels his experience as the child of Dominican immigrants into his coed collections, which frequently reference his upbringing and his admiration for the opulence of Manhattan’s elite.
Celebrities including Dua Lipa and Julia Fox are fans of his work. “As a Latino gay child born in Brooklyn to immigrant parents, my brand is part love letter to the child that I was, part love letter to those, who like me, are looking to see themselves in a world that often ignores them,” he said.
Luca Magliano’s label has been gaining heat on the Milan scene with its meticulous take on downbeat, vintage-looking menswear.
A fashion design graduate of Bologna’s Libera Università delle Arti, Magliano cut his teeth on Alessandro Dell’Acqua’s team in Milan prior to moving back to Bologna in 2013 to work with designer Manuela Arcari on the Ter et Bantine fashion line. Arcari, who is also the president of Arcari e Co., offered him the chance to launch his own collection under license in 2017.
Known for his tailoring and color sense, at times evoking grunge or vintage aesthetics, Magliano is positioned in the affordable luxury segment and is carried at around 60 retailers globally. In December, the company sold a minority stake to Underscore District, a newly established fashion business accelerator, to support the next stage of its growth.
Founded by Canadian designer Paolina Russo in 2020, this knitwear-focused womenswear brand draws on her experiences of growing up in Ontario, where the two major pastimes were craft and team sports.
French designer Lucile Guilmard, a fellow Central Saint Martins graduate, joined as codesigner last year, bringing her folklore references and contemporary cutting methods to the mix.
Known for its signature lenticular knitwear, the London-based brand is a finalist for the 2023 International Woolmark Prize and has several capsule collections with Adidas under its belt. Using upcycled and unconventional materials, Paolina Russo channels suburban nostalgia with items like its Warrior top, a knit corset inspired by “The Legend of Zelda.”
Having cut her teeth with Jil Sander and Phoebe Philo, Veronica Leoni is ready to make her own statement with her womenswear label Quira. Its blend of strictness and sensuality mirrors the female-centric approach of her mentors.
Named after her seamstress grandmother, Quirina, the brand made its debut at Milan Fashion Week in 2021 and has garnered more than 20 stockists, including Bergdorf Goodman, H.Lorenzo and Ssense, thanks to sparse and quiet fare cut from exquisite materials.
For her fall 2023 presentation in Paris, Leoni worked with a mostly black palette, focusing on shape with layered silhouettes that gave off a protective aura. “I feel in a way that it’s a very strong point of view on style, the black itself, and gives a very sharp point of view on modern womanhood. I think it’s quite necessary at the moment and I feel a responsibility there,” she told WWD.
Born in Kyoto, Japan, Satoshi Kuwata moved to London at the age of 21 to pursue his dream of becoming a fashion designer. During his studies at Central Saint Martins, he worked for Huntsman in Savile Row, where he learned to master his tailoring skills.
Kuwata went on to work with brands including Gareth Pugh in London; Kanye West and Givenchy in Paris; Edun in New York City and Golden Goose in Milan before launching his unisex label in 2020. The brand name Setchu represents the fusion of Japanese and Western concepts, with items like foldable jackets in origami-like constructions.
A winner of Vogue Italia’s “Who Is on Next?” talent search last year, Kuwata grounds his designs in a deep knowledge and respect for different cultures and crafts. “I place all my efforts into a design process imbued with storytelling,” the globe-trotting designer said.