A shining moment for young stars

Updated: 2014-06-15 07:27

By Miles Socha (The New York Times)

 A shining moment for young stars

A model on the runway at Thomas Tait's fall 2014 show at Il Bottaccio. Photos Provided to China Daily

 A shining moment for young stars

Tait is known for his innovative pattern-cutting, exaggerated silhouettes and occasional Bauhaus and Constructivist touches.

The LVMH competition for emerging designers means cash and cachet, Miles Socha reports from Paris.

Thomas Tait was crowned the winner of the inaugural LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize, a project that has shone a spotlight on a swath of indie labels and their challenges. "Congratulations," said a beaming Delphine Arnault as she handed the slender Canadian womenswear designer a golden helix of pearls wrapped around a star. The trophy by artist Jean-Michel Othoniel comes with a cash prize of 300,000 euros ($408,000), plus a year of coaching from LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton executives.

Arnault said the winner was selected on the basis of talent, creativity and potential for development.

Tait said the funds and advice would be a major boost for his London-based label, which sells to about 10 specialty stores.

"It really will benefit every area of the business," he said, flanked by models wearing his minimal, otherworldly dresses. "Financial struggle is something I'm very familiar with as an independent designer."

The announcement was made at LVMH's Paris headquarters after 11 finalists had made individual presentations to a jury stacked with the conglomerate's designers. It was an Instagram moment of historic proportions as Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs, Nicolas Ghesquiere, Raf Simons and Riccardo Tisci, along with Kenzo's Humberto Leon, stood in a row for photos.

"He's an artist in a way," Lagerfeld said of Tait. "He sketches very well, and as you know, I like sketches."

Lagerfeld handed over a booklet showing Tait's delicate, X-ray-like etchings with a superhero undercurrent.

Tait is already something of a designer's designer with his innovative pattern-cutting, exaggerated silhouettes and occasional Bauhaus and Constructivist touches. The architect Zaha Hadid is among aficionados of his sculptural yet streamlined clothes.

A native of Montreal and a graduate of its College LaSalle, Tait went on to receive an master's degree in fashion from London's Central Saint Martins. He has shown his collections during London Fashion Week since 2010, when he won the inaugural Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize.

Arnault, the force behind the initiative and a key talent scout at the luxury group her family controls, also sat on the jury. She surprised the audience of assembled journalists and LVMH bigwigs by unveiling two additional jury prizes, each greeted with a roar of applause.

Shayne Oliver, the designer behind the New York label Hood by Air, and Miuniku, by Mumbai-based sisters Nikita and Tina Sutradhar, are each to receive 100,000 euros, plus a year of mentoring.

Arnault also handed out 10,000-euro scholarships to three fashion graduates, who each get a one-year post in the design studio of a fashion house at LVMH, home to such brands as Fendi, Loewe, Pucci and Donna Karan. Each school that produced these graduates, she noted, will also receive 10,000 euros to "symbolize LVMH's support" of education that encourages fashion renewal and excellence.

Finalists were unanimous that the prize brought a windfall of attention and professional contacts, critical currencies in a competitive industry dominated by giants.

"This has been like fuel for us," said Tina Sutradhar, revealing plans to move the business from Mumbai to London, and start showing in the English capital as early as February. "It's really motivated us to see what's out there and pushed us to raise the bar."

The graduates of London College of Fashion are among designers tapped by Vogue Italia to produce a capsule collection for Pepsi, and they will travel to Dubai to present their designs next spring.

Underscoring the popularity of such fashion contests - and suggesting budding talents are hungry for funding and business advice - 1,221 designers reportedly applied for a chance to win.

The competition is unique in its global scope, online-only registration and nomination process, and gradual elimination process. The competition was open to any designer between the ages of 18 and 40 who has presented and sold at least two collections of women's or men's ready-to-wear.

The New York Times

(China Daily 06/15/2014 page7)