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July 13 2014

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Delphine Arnault and LVMH Announce the New LVMH Prize for Young Designers

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Delphine ArnaultImagine that you’re a young designer and you not only have the opportunity to win a 300,000 euro investment in your business but also to have your work judged by a panel that includes Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs, Nicolas Ghesquière, Raf Simons, Phoebe Philo, Riccardo Tisci, Humberto Leon, and Carol Lim. That extraordinary prospect is about to come true, thanks to LVMH.

The luxury group today announced the creation of a new annual LVMH Prize. Open to any designer under 40 who has produced two commercially available collections of women’s and/or men’s ready-to-wear, the prize comes with a 300,000 euro grant and a year of mentorship. (Three 10,000 euro prizes will be awarded to current or recent fashion-school students, along with a year’s employment at an LVMH brand.) Unlike many of the existing fashion prizes—from the ANDAM in France to the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in the U.S.—the LVMH Prize is open to designers the world over, without restrictions for nationality or residence. “One of our priorities has always been creativity,” says Delphine Arnault (left), the executive vice president of Louis Vuitton, and one of the executives spearheading the new prize initiative. “We think, Who better than our designers to elect the designer of tomorrow?”

Applicants submit their work online, via the new LVMHprize.com, which will be accepting applications today through February 2, 2014. (Spectators can also comment on submissions and share favorites via social media.) From the applicant pool, an LVMH team will select thirty designers to send to Paris during fashion week in March to show their collections in a group showroom. From there, a quorum of industry experts, ranging from stylists to editors to retailers, will vote for the top ten, who will then go before the judging panel. (In addition to the designers above, creative directors of the LVMH labels Fendi, Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Céline, Givenchy, and Kenzo, respectively, the panel will include Arnault; Pierre-Yves Roussel, chairman and CEO of LVMH’s Fashion Group; and Bernard Claverie, LVMH’s head of corporate philanthropy.) Speaking by phone from Paris, Arnault answered a few questions about the new prize.

How did you select the preconditions for application—that designers must be under 40 years old and have produced two collections?
Under 40, because it’s a good age! I know that in the States, you’re not supposed to talk about age, but in Europe, it’s fine. I’m 38, so I think that 40 is a good age, non?

To have a minimum of two collections, we debated a lot on that. We spoke to Riccardo [Tisci], and he said, I would have never been selected on your list, because I only presented one collection! He only did one collection, and then he went directly to Givenchy. It’s quite hard, but you have to find a rule. At the beginning, we had more collections than two, but we think that two is a good number…. There are a lot of people who have a lot of talent, and then they don’t have enough financial support to develop it longer than two or three collections.

And why did you decide to hold the competition online?
What we hope by having this online application is to find amazing talents that no one knows. We want to find new designers…. Everyone is online, and everyone thinks like that. It’s easy for everyone to apply online. And the online part in fashion is very important, and becoming increasingly important.

What was the response of the artistic directors of the group when you asked them to sit on the judging panel?
They were very enthusiastic. Everyone said yes immediately—they didn’t even think. Most of them are really interested in the next generation and helping the next generation. And for us, the LVMH group, as the leader of our sector, it’s our responsibility to discover talent and to help them grow.

You personally have a long history of mentoring and supporting emerging designers. Was this an official part of your mandate at LVMH?
It wasn’t really official, but it’s always something that’s interested me a lot. When I was traveling—even when I was traveling not necessarily for work—I was always meeting some designers in New York and L.A. and wherever I went. I feel that creativity is at the center of our group, and it’s extremely important to know the designers [of] the future, the young ones.

LVMH has recently been investing in new designers. Do you see the prize as an incubator for potential future investments?
No, we really see this as a more philanthropic commitment. Recently, we’ve invested in young talent, but we’ve always promoted young talent. Marc Jacobs, when we invested in his company in 1998, the turnover was $20 million. It’s one of the biggest successes of the last fifteen years—now it’s $1 billion. Riccardo Tisci, when he arrived at Givenchy, he was 28. Now he’s 38. He’s been at Givenchy for ten years. We’ve just named Jonathan Anderson at Loewe.

Why was it important to you to make the competition open to menswear designers as well as womenswear?

What we want to honor is talent…. You can start in menswear, continue in womenswear. Raf [Simons], he started in men’s, for example.

This first year, the prize is only on ready-to-wear, but we will see how it goes and learn by doing. Maybe in the next years we’ll open it to other categories, like accessories.

Photo: J. François Robert / Courtesy of LVMH

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