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If They Can Make It There…

In New York, Sophie Théallet, Monique Péan, and Patrik Ervell Take Home the Fashion Fund's Top Honors

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Patrik Ervell, Sophie Théallet, and Monique Péan   
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The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund—whose annual awards ceremony was held Monday night at Skylight Studios and underwritten by Cartier—is now six years old, and other countries finally seem to be catching on to the importance of nurturing young talent. There's Italy's Who's on Next; the U.K. has just launched its own new-designer competition; and in her speech, Vogue's Anna Wintour said she'd recently had a meeting with the French minister of culture about starting a similar contest in France. "And Brazil, India, Russia, and China aren't far behind," Wintour noted. But still, she argued, "New York is the place to come for young designers to show what they're capable of." For proof, look to the 2009 finalists, a far-flung group with different backgrounds and areas of interest: Of the ten nominees, at least three hail from countries other than the U.S.; two are jewelry makers; two are menswear designers; one's a cobbler (of handmade shoes, no less); and another's a veteran of sorts, having been nominated for the first time four years ago.

The diversity theme continued with Aussie Nicole Kidman, a redhead again, introducing the keynote speaker: "the visionary, incomparable Alber Elbaz." The Lanvin designer delivered one of his trademark wide-ranging speeches, touching on the perils of celebrity fashion, the dangers of becoming a producer of fashion shows rather than of fashion, and finally, the sweet smell of success. "It's like a bottle of perfume," he waxed philosophical. "You smell it, you don't sniff it or drink it."

Afterward, Kidman joined Elbaz onstage again for the announcements. The philanthropic jewelry maker Monique Péan and the menswear designer Patrik Ervell were named runners-up, each taking home a $50,000 check. The former promised, "I won't disappoint you," while the latter told the judges, "Thank you for thinking of this award. We all appreciate it." But the $200,000 grand prize went to the French-born, Brooklyn-based womenswear designer Sophie Théallet. "I'm French, so I'm going to try to do my best," she began, before concluding, "Thank you for making my American dreams come true."

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