11 posts tagged "LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers"
Shayne Oliver of Hood by Air had already built a solid fan base around his unique brand of cool before he landed a NYFW show, a Style.com/Print cover, and, most recently, a 100,000 euro LVMH Special Prize. Oliver, 27, had already courted heavy cosigns from fashionable celebrities like A$AP Rocky, Kanye West, and Rihanna. It didn’t happen overnight, but thanks to the LVMH Prize and a CFDA nomination, it seems the seven-year-old brand’s envelope-pushing silhouettes and print-heavy fleece knits and tees have been fully accepted into the institution of fashion. The young designer is competing with Tim Coppens and Todd Snyder for the CFDA’s Swarovski Award for Menswear, and his LVMH Special Prize comes with a year of mentoring from the likes of Raf Simons, Nicolas Ghesquière, and Phoebe Philo. We caught up with Oliver in Paris shortly after the LVMH announcement to talk about what fashion and street culture can learn from each other, music’s enduring influence in clothing, and how he’s training a new generation to think differently about style.
Congrats on winning the Special Prize. That’s gotta be exciting.
Yeah, it’s exciting and fulfilling. It feels really cool.
You’ve achieved success by creating your own lane in fashion. How does it feel?
It feels great. It’s kind of like the point of the whole Hood by Air project: pretty much reappropriating and reassessing all of culture, the validity and the concepts of streetwear—these concepts that are involved in fashion but are only looked at as “trends.” Personally, that’s kind of like the point of it. It feels good to be heard and that some people get what you’re saying, instead of always being seen as some sort of loose creative, conceptual person or conceptual brand.
The interesting story, too, is that you guys have built your fan base and succeeded outside of the institution of fashion. A lot of people feel like they need the cosign of an Anna Wintour or a Karl Lagerfeld before they’ve “made it.”
To me, the fact that you had a rabid fan base who came to you organically, especially in the new age of the Internet, is the new “making it.” Is there a valid legitimacy from being recognized by the old guard, or do you feel like you’re part of a “new rules” aspect of the industry?
I think it’s a little bit of both. I think that the old guard is kind of like a platform. I guess both worlds have to meet, and eventually it’s the beginning of a realization for both worlds—the new kids prove that we’re here, and the older crowd realizing that we make the rules in a way. We know what we want to see and we don’t have to wait on anyone to do it.
Regardless, it’s gonna happen, you know? I think that happens all the time—for instance, when Yves started ready-to-wear. Before then it was always couture, and it became a thing from couture to actually showing collections in this way, having ready-to-wear collections that were not for the masses, but outside of the realm of, like, having people come to your atelier. It’s like a new form of ready-to-wear in a way. I think that one of the things that we did do successfully was make this Internet world a reality, physical.
As a black designer, how do you feel about your work being recognized on such a big scale?
Coming from that perspective, race and all that stuff…that’s why I kind of like don’t consider myself a designer. I wasn’t formally trained, and I’m also doing this as commentary. It’s almost a backhanded compliment to fashion, showing fashion that it doesn’t control all its rules in a way. The amount of energy that comes into fashion from—I wouldn’t say “streetwear,” because I never really connected with that term, but I’ll say “street culture” in a sense, it has affected fashion in so many ways.
It’s the kind of thing where we’re taking it back but also owning and being responsible for our own influence on individuals, instead of constantly being the people that work behind the scenes, consulting for people, being star socialites or these public figures, you know—these style icons. I think now it’s a thing where it’s like, “We’re gonna own it, we’re gonna be the group who produces it and sells it to you.” Instead of it being an unknown wave of influence or this magical thing that no one knows about or miraculously came out of nowhere.
There have been comparisons made between HBA and punk, but there’s definitely a difference between hip-hop and punk in the sense that brand awareness is part of the culture, and a lot of its proponents are minorities.
Yeah, it’s always been that way. In the beginning, rock ‘n’ roll was sort of like HBA, where it was at first “all these black people being wild and crazy,” and then all of a sudden rock was just seen as a white thing, that sort of thing. Now it can’t necessarily happen like that anymore because of the Internet—it’s very visible and you know where things come from, but more than anything, I think that we’re using the tool of the Internet to make it not happen again. Instead of fighting it, we just want to live out and do what we do the best way possible, instead of having to wait for it to trickle down so many generations later on. I think even looking at Hedi [Slimane] and the silhouettes he uses—they are very rock—it took so long for that to be considered fashion.
Kurt Cobain wouldn’t have walked in a fashion show, but Tupac walked in Versace, and A$AP Rocky’s rapping “Hood by Air, yeah I started that”—hip-hop culture prides itself on aligning with fashion and appropriating labels. It contrasts with DIY and anti-consumerism attitudes in rock.
It’s the same thing, but it’s different than when Tupac walked Versace. Then, it was like they were buying it because it had nothing to do with the hood. It was about the exclusivity of that, and this was more of like an acceptance of, like, something that nobody knew about that was emerging. That was what made it exciting for Rocky to embrace it, that’s what he meant by he “started it.”
HBA is a thing where even though it’s successful, it’s not full mass. It’s not everywhere, and we’re very selective to who we sell to. Even though we’re way larger than we ever were before, it’s still—in the sense of the luxury market or whatever—we’re still holding back and we’re not as accessible as these other brands are. I feel like that’s a new form of luxury that started in the BAPE era, where BAPE was so far away and was a Japanese thing. There’s like a reverse thing happening now in Asia, HBA’s so popular in Asia. I want people to feel like they have to work toward that feeling of obtaining this culture, like paying the price. It wasn’t meant to be an asshole thing and gouge people on the price of a T-shirt, it was more of like you paying for this, paying to be a part of it. You’re buying into a thing that comes from this culture, this mind state.
When you say you want people to sort of earn their way into the culture, is part of that putting on the clothes and steeling up the necessary confidence to proudly wear them in public?
Yeah, exactly. I think right now I’m just basically training a generation. What I want to do is train a generation to accept a new way of dressing, a new way of being, and a new way of approaching ideas and concepts within themselves, or even the idea of who they are as a person. I don’t think there’s much now that speaks specifically to “now” or a present and a future person. Everything has its reference point of being like, “Oh, it’s very boho” or “It’s very something,” you know what I mean? I want HBA to be a thing where it’s “very HBA” when you see it. That’s partially why I push the envelope with the shows, and the fact that I keep it very community-based. I feel like these ideas, when they come from a genuine place, it becomes its own entity. We can create our own reference points as a generation.
What do you hope to learn from the year of mentoring from LVMH?
Well, for one, I wanted to set a standard for the ideas that come out of the brand. I think that this is kind of like a validation in a way for certain people. For the fashion community, I just want them to understand that it’s not just this thing for a certain group of people—it’s like these ideas are valid, and they are “fashion” ideas and concepts, they’re not like this thing that eventually no one cares…so that is one thing that I think the mentoring and the experience of being involved with the LVMH thing does. I really want to get a grasp on the things we don’t know, which is like the actual fashion luxury aspects of fashion, the technical support, the techniques, production quality, and having actual luxury goods come out of the brand.
And make it scalable?
Exactly, so it’ll be a thing where the feel of the fabrics are better, the quality is higher, the technique of print—all the techniques and the things that you would learn in school, which is what I didn’t do. I built my aesthetic first, so now I feel like I’m looking into a fashion, not norm, but the luxury side of it, the business, the technique of fashion, and actually making really great, amazing clothing for people to wear.
It’s the 300,000 euro question: Why did Thomas Tait win the inaugural LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers? What sets him apart from all the other qualified finalists? After his victory yesterday afternoon, Tait told me he had no idea. “I was shocked,” admitted the London-based 26-year-old.
To be honest, I was not.
When I attended my first Tait show back in 2011, I had a feeling he was going to be “big.” Maybe it was because the then-24-year-old designer—the youngest to graduate from Central Saint Martins’ prestigious MA Fashion program—had managed to draw hugely important buyers from hugely important stores to his second-ever show. Perhaps it was the fact that his strict yet subtle designs were so entirely different than the work of his often-eccentric LFW peers. But sitting in that presentation, you could feel that you were witnessing the beginning of something special.
The Canadian-born talent launched his line back in 2010, and quickly earned sponsorship from the BFC’s NEWGEN. He’s carried by such retailers as Jeffrey, Louis Boston, and 10 Corso Como, and has a knack for convincing top editors to trek to the most inconvenient, albeit spectacular, London show spaces, like an abandoned grass-filled warehouse or a graffitied skate park. His success is made all the more impressive by the fact that his East London studio was founded with no independent financial backing and boasts only one full-time employee. “I’d like to grow it, as quickly as possible!” the designer laughed over the phone. “It’s really small-time.”
That may be the case, but Tait’s vision and dedication to doing things properly is anything but. “I told LVMH I have goals and, regardless of whether I win the prize, I’m going to go after them,” he explained. “Now they might happen sooner and smoother than I had planned. It will be nice just entering next season not wondering how I’m going to keep my head above water [financially] like I usually do.”
There are a few projects, though, that the prize will finally allow him to pursue. Handbags, for example, are on the horizon, and he’s aiming to produce shoes, which he’s previously created only for the runway. The M word came up, too. “Menswear isn’t urgent, but I’d be lying if I said that it isn’t something that interested me,” said Tait, who’s been known to wear his own sharp cashmere coats or trousers when the sample’s just right. “I haven’t really had much money to go shopping, so I’ve gotta make do!”
But back to the question at hand: What makes Tait so darn exceptional? For one, he’s old school, whether it comes to technical skills (he’s involved in the creation of each garment he produces), delivering his collections on time, or even sketching. “Karl Lagerfeld mentioned that he liked my illustrations. He said that it was a dying art in fashion, that it was rare, and that was really touching.”
There’s the fact that Tait doesn’t aim to please anyone but himself. “I never feel like I’ve done something that I regret to satisfy someone else’s desires.” Except his clients, of course. “I’d like to think that people approach what I do because they care about how they feel, and they think about how they’re dressing.”
He’s never relied on celebrities to push his wares. “I don’t necessarily lend to celebrities because I prefer to [dress] people I have a personal connection to or an appreciation for.”
And his ability to simultaneously remain constant and tweak his aesthetic, shifting from streamlined elegance one season to slick streetwear the next, is terribly sophisticated. “There’s a common thread throughout each collection,” he said. “But when it comes to the look, it varies from season to season because there’s too much to talk about and experience for me to limit myself.”
In short, Tait is talented, creatively stable, and his abilities extend far beyond those of any other 26-year-old fashion star. “Most of our struggles boil down to financial needs,” he conceded, adding that he’d like to expand his wholesale distribution and open a flagship down the line. But he acknowledges there’s a long road ahead. “I still have a lot to learn,” he told me. “This is just the beginning.”
The atmosphere at the LVMH headquarters was electric this afternoon, as reporters, photographers, finalists, jury members, and designers all mingled before the big reveal of the inaugural LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers winner. London-based Canadian designer Thomas Tait, who won the Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize back in 2010, came out on top. “I was shocked,” he told us while sitting next to his gilded trophy. “I thought, Did that just happen?” Tait is now looking at 300,000 euros of financial support and a year’s worth of business mentoring and production advice, and naturally we were curious as to his next move. “A nice dinner, a good night’s sleep, and I need to call my mom and dad,” he said. But after that, he might take another step toward that handbag he’s been thinking about. Menswear, though, is “not such an emergency.”
The ten runners-up (formerly eleven, but Julien Dossena shuttered his line Atto to focus on his work at Paco Rabanne) were not forgotten—and they were awarded for their efforts. After taking the podium, LVMH’s Delphine Arnault first presented three students, Flavien Juan Nuñez, Peter Do, and Teruhiro Hasegawa, with 10,000-euro grants plus one-year internships with Dior, Céline, and Givenchy, respectively. Then, Arnault announced that the jury, which included designers Karl Lagerfeld, Nicolas Ghesquière, Marc Jacobs, Humberto Leon, Phoebe Philo, Raf Simons, and Riccardo Tisci, had decided to create a special prize of 100,000 euros each for two runners-up. Those honorees were Shayne Olivier of Hood by Air and Indian sisters Tina and Nikita Sutradhar of Miuniku. Currently based in Mumbai, the latter are moving their camp to London next year, with plans to show at London fashion week.
Even those who walked away without a hefty purse were grateful. “It’s already been incredible in terms of exposure and meeting people—it’s like you win right out of the gate,” mused finalist Chris Gelinas. When asked about the final presentation, in which each designer, accompanied by two models, got ten minutes in front of the jury, he replied, “It felt a little like the Last Supper—all these important people lined up at one long table. I remember thinking, What did I just say to Karl Lagerfeld?“
“I really appreciated the very different personalities and expressions. It was very interesting,” said jury member Ghesquière. “They all really have a vision, a story to tell, an expression, and a signature. That’s formidable. As for the jury, there was a real camaraderie,” he added, before slipping out of the room and back to work. Lagerfeld noted that the best part of the process was “having everyone all together, we never see each other because we’re working. But I hate that I want everybody to win and that’s not possible.”
“I am thrilled. It was so interesting and original. All eleven candidates were of such excellent quality; each had their style,” offered Arnault. “They are tomorrow’s great talents.” Asked if she thought the contest would draw even more than this year’s 1,221 candidatures, she replied, “I hope so!”
Today in Paris, the eleven finalists for the coveted LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers gathered for the highly anticipated winners announcement. A jury including Karl Lagerfeld, Raf Simons, Nicolas Ghesquière, Marc Jacobs, Riccardo Tisci, and others have chosen London-based designer Thomas Tait as the top talent, awarding him a 300,000 euro prize and a year of mentoring. Both Hood by Air‘s Shayne Oliver (who’s up for a CFDA Award next week) and Nikita and Tina Sutradhar of Miuniku have also earned honorable mentions, as well as 100,000 euros each. A big congratulations to the winning designers. Stay tuned for our full report on the announcement, coming later today.
Style.com got word this afternoon that Julien Dossena has decided to put his signature line, Atto, which he launched in 2012, on hold indefinitely. Having been appointed as creative director of Paco Rabanne last August, Dossena wants to dedicate his full focus to the heritage house. “I feel that today is a moment when both projects deserve and require a full commitment from my side, and I feel that exciting projects are coming in for Paco Rabanne and I want to make sure that all my energy is concentrated on that,” Dossena said. “Of course Atto will always be very special to me, and I am sure that a few years down the road I will restart this amazing adventure for which I received such a good response.” Atto is currently stocked at twenty-five stores worldwide.
It’s not easy to juggle two brands, especially as an emerging designer, so Dossena’s choice is understandable. However, it’s sad to see Atto close its doors—the line had a fresh, streamlined aesthetic, and earned Dossena a finalist spot in LVMH’s Prize for Young Fashion Designers competition, the winner of which will be chosen this month. We’ve been told that Dossena withdrew from the competition last night, and his spot will not be filled with another designer.