2022 LVMH Prize jury rewarded young fashion designers, and Cate Blanchett, Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquière and Delphine Arnault were there with advice and support
- Small fashion labels big on sustainability took the 2022 LVMH Prize awards, from Steven Stokey-Daley of S.S. Daley to Idris Balogun of Winnie New York
- Actress Cate Blanchett, who attended the ceremony, is a proponent of sustainable fashion and was impressed by how the finalists prioritise responsible practices
The resilience of the luxury industry during the coronavirus pandemic has been nothing short of remarkable.
Even at the height of the Covid-19 crisis in 2020, top brands such as Chanel, Dior, Hermès and Louis Vuitton managed to thrive – and raise the prices of some of their key products to deal with surging demand.
This success often came at the expense of smaller labels as, in such uncertain times, high-end consumers felt more comfortable investing in timeless brands rather than taking a bet on niche designers.
A crisis, however, can also be a source of creativity by making small businesses more resourceful and focused.
This year, the main prize went to Steven Stokey-Daley, 25, the British founder of S.S. Daley, while the jury awarded the Karl Lagerfeld Prize – named after the late designer of Chanel and Fendi – to Los Angeles-based Eli Russell Linnetz, 31, founder of ERL, and British-born, New York-based Idris Balogun, 29, of Winnie New York.
“Half of the finalists created their brands during the pandemic, which is very brave,” says Delphine Arnault, director and executive vice-president of Louis Vuitton and the founder of the prize.
“You need to be sure of yourself to do that; it shows a lot of strength.”
From disruptions to the supply chain and production to the recent rise in the cost of living, independent labels have had to deal with a number of major issues over the past two years.
Stokey-Daley, who is from Liverpool but is based in London, also mentioned Brexit (the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union) as a crisis he had to confront when he first set out to establish his brand.
“The winner is wonderful and very brave because he started his brand during the pandemic and helped his circle of suppliers who were struggling,” says Chiuri.
“Even his grandmother helped him during the pandemic, and he found a knitwear company that was out of work to make his knitwear.
“It wasn’t just his creativity but also his entrepreneurial spirit that is admirable for someone so young and with so little experience.”
While Stokey-Daley says that he got a big boost when singer Harry Styles wore some of his pieces, his company is very small and will obviously benefit from the €300,000 (US$322,000) cash prize and the mentoring he will receive from LVMH executives (the Karl Lagerfeld Prize recipients will receive €150,000 each and advice).
Ghesquière agrees that being resourceful is a key skill for a young creative these days. “Constraint is a strength and it’s wonderful to see young people expressing that,” he says.
“They transformed this very complex time of crisis we’ve gone through into something very positive and creative.
“That’s what we learned from young people: to be resourceful, and look at things in a different way and make do with what you have by thinking about sustainability, and still [come up with] a strong proposition.”
Sustainability was indeed one of the common threads among the eight finalists, who hailed from countries such as Japan, Ireland, the US and the UK.
“I’ve always reworn stuff but, coming out of lockdown, it felt crazy to be wearing new dresses – but it’s a balance because you do want to support the crafts and the creativity and those who make couture,” she says.
“Many designers here are using deadstock [inventory unlikely to sell] fabric or even growing their own silk, like Idris from Winnie New York.”
Arnault says the winners of the prize will receive free fabrics from Nona Source, a company founded by former LVMH executives which repurposes unused fabrics from LVMH brands and sells them to independent designers at lower prices. “The quality of the fabrics is very high; even Stella McCartney uses them,” she says.
“They need to choose their teams really well, especially their business partners,” Arnault says.
“Today, designers have to be creative but also understand the business and think like CEOs and know about logistics, production, delivery – it’s a lot and they need to hire someone who can deal with strategy.”
Asked what advice he would give to a young, aspiring designer, Ghesquière says: “Freedom and personal expression matter. Try not to mimic anyone and be very individual.”
He adds: “To be remarkable and to give visibility to your work, you have to stay true to yourself and have your own world and own it and make it yours. It’s not always easy but it makes a big difference.”