A Fashionable Hunt

The excitement of fashion is always fueled by the creativity of youth. But for every Ralph or Donna, there are millions of “best dressed” recipients; for every Rudi Gingrich or Walter Van Beirendonck, there are innumerable style heroes at the club. In the end, talent be damned, the one who sells the most garments, wins.

Still, the hunt for unknown greatness continues. Even going back through the post-WWII era, fashion contests have found significant and successful designers. In 1949, the Jacques Heim National Design Contest discovered a young talent named Liz Claiborne. In the 1950s, a sketch contest by Secrétariat International de la Laine (International Wool Secretariat) pro- pelled a pair of eager teenagers: Yves Saint Laurent to Christian Dior, and Karl Lagerfeld to Pierre Balmain.

These days, reality TV shows and online tools have helped expand the accessibility of design competitions. Most notably, after seven full seasons, Project Runway’s hunt for “the next great designer,” has uncovered some mid-level talent while making Tim Gunn into a household name and notable style arbiter. Here’s a look at programs that continue the search without reservation.

The CFDA offers several awards and scholarship programs to encourage American designers. Most notably, the CFDA Fashion Awards recognize major designers, with 2010 recognition going to Marc Jacobs for womenwear; Rag & Bone for menswear; Alexis Bittar for accessories; Jason Wu, Richard Chai and DanaLorenz won Swarovski Awards for emerging talent; Alexander McQueen for a Board of Directors’ Tribute; Michael Kors for a Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement; Christopher Bailey for Burberry took home the International Award; Tonne Goodman of Vogue as fashion icon, the Eleanor Lambert Award; and Kim Hastreiter of Paper for the Eugenia Sheppard Award.

There’s also a range of programs for student designers. The Geoffrey Beene Design Scholar Award gives a $25,000 scholarship to a junior student. The 2010 winner was Carmen Chen Wu of Parsons The New School for Design. The CFDA Masters Program offers select design internships at Target in Minneapolis, MN, with 13 placements taking place since the program’s inception in 1998. Senior design students are eligible for the $25,000 Liz Claiborne Fashion Scholarship; Jusil Carroll of FIT took home the 2010 prize. And for high school students, the CFDA/Teen Vogue Scholarships provide $5000 to five annual winners, plus $25,000 to a single Target Fashion Scholar. The 2010 winner was Nicole Goh of Deer Park, NY.

Finally, a new program for 2010, CFDA Fashion Incubator, offers below market studio space in New York and regular evalu- ations from established buyers, designers and editors. The first group included Alice Ritter; Bibhu Mohapatra; Rachel Dooley of Gemma Redux; Grant Krajecki of Grey Ant; Waris Ahluwalia from House of Waris; Joel Diaz from Jolibe; Prabal Gurung; Dao-Yi Chow & Maxwell Osborne of Public School; Yuvi Alpert & Danna Kobo from Ruby Kobo; Sang A Im-Propp of Sang A; Justin Giunta from Subversive Jewelry; and Tom Scott.
For more information visit: www.cfda.com

The most forward looking of all the fashion awards, the EDFF provides $25,000 grants for seven US-based, emerging design- ers to put toward a NY Fashion Week show. 2010 recognition went to Prabal Gurung; Joseph Altuzarra of Altuzarra; Ross Menuez of Salvor Projects; and Phillipe Rolano and David Trujillo of The Blonds for women’s wear; Siki Im for men’s wear; Irini Arakas of Prova for accessories; and John Patrick of Organic for sustainable design. Past winners include Alexander Wang, Doo Ri, Loden Dager, Project Alabama, Tom Scott, VPL, Zac Posen, Rodarte, Proenza Schouler, and Cushnie et Ochs. The judging panel includes Ruth Finley, publisher of The Fashion Calendar; Julie Gilhart and Jay Bell of Barneys New York; and Marylou Luther, editor of the International Fashion Syndicate.
For more information visit: www.eccodomani.com

Open to designers around the world under 40 years of age and planning to show in France, the Andam Fashion Award is underwritten by the likes of the Gucci Group, LVMH, and the Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent Foundation. Started in 1989, Andam stands for Association Nationale pour le Développement des Arts de la Mode. The first group of fel- lowships went to Martin Margiela, Olivier Guillemin and Frédéric Molenac.

With 2010 grants totaling €220,000. Hakaan Yildirim of Turkey was selected by a judging committee which included Carine Roitfeld, EIC of French Vogue; Alber Elbaz, designer of Lanvin; and Hilary Alexander, Fashion Director of The Daily Telegraph. Notables among the 70 winners over Andam’s 21-year history include Giles Deacon, Gareth Pugh, Bernhard Willhelm, Viktor & Rolf, Christophe Lemaire and Jeremy Scott.
For more information visit: www.andam.fr

BFC, the organizer of London Fashion Week, offers several programs to support up-and-comers. Most recently, the BFC/ Vogue Designer Fashion Fund awarded Erdem Moralioglu of Erdem a £200,000 prize and a mentorship panel chaired by Marigay McKee, Harrods Director of Fashion and Beauty. The BFC/Elle Talent Launch Pad invites designers with less than two years of business to apply for marketing and press support. NewGen and NewGen MEN offer winners an oppor- tunity for three different levels of show support: Catwalk, Presentation or Installation. Past winners include Alexander McQueen and Boudicca. The September 2010 catwalk win- ners include David Koma, Holly Fulton, Louise Gray, Mary Katrantzou, Michael van der Ham and Peter Pilotto for wom- enswear, plus Christopher Shannon, James Long and JW Anderson for menswear. The 7-year-old eco-sustainability award, Estethica, offers a full season of support and consult- ing in addition to a press presentation over London Fashion Week.
For more information visit: www.britishfashioncouncil.com

– Michael Cohen