France and Italy lead the way in prizes and mentoring for emerging designers

Young, emerging designers are the roots of the fashion system. The industry’s decision-makers and institutions are well aware of this, and they are showing increasing interest in fashion’s most promising talents. Support initiatives have increased in recent years, a subject explored during a round table at the ‘Forum de la Mode’ (Fashion Forum) organised in Paris on 6th December.  France has always been a leader in this domain, but other European countries such as Italy are quickly catching up.


Wataru Tominaga, winner of the Grand Prix at the Hyères Fashion Festival in France - PixelFormula

In the last few years, the number of awards for emerging designers has grown exponentially. Alongside established French and international prizes, such as the Hyères Fashion Festival prize, the ANDAM prize and the Woolmark Prize, the most interesting new awards are the International Talent Support initiative, based in Trieste, Italy and supported by companies such as OTB, Swarovski and Swatch. The Grand prix de la création de la ville de Paris (the city of Paris’ prize for design) and the prestigious LVMH prize, established in 2014, are more examples of the trend.

Institutions are playing their part too, setting up support initiatives for emerging talent, such as the Paris-based Designers Apartment showroom that gives young designers an outlet for presenting their creations to buyers and the media.
 
New talent needs more than just recognition of creativity. Young designers also require business support, and organizations like the Fédération française du prêt à porter feminine (the French women’s ready-to-wear association) offers professional advice from accountants, lawyers and other experts in helping budding fashion labels to draft effective business plans.

“It is very important for young designers launching on the market to adopt an entrepreneurial approach very quickly,” said Priscilla Jokhoo, who has been on charge of the association’s business development service for five years.

France and other countries also offers funding opportunities ranging from the grass-roots level, such as the IFCIC institute, which acts as an intermediary between designers and banks, to investment companies, which support labels once they have taken off and require a further boost, either through private equity investment or loans designed specifically for creative enterprises.

 
The ANDAM prize winner for 2016, Johanna Senyk, founder of the Wanda Nylon label - © PixelFormula

Pitti Immagine, the organiser of the Pitti fashion industry shows in Florence, Italy launched the Pitti Tutorship project last May, a mentoring initiative that currently supports 25 fashion designers based in Italy and elsewhere. “We have received more than 500 applications, sixty of which we are still evaluating,” said project director Riccardo Vanetti.

Mentoring is an increasingly appealing opportunity for emerging designers, given the risks they face and the complexities of the industry. For fashion prize winners, prize money is an extremely important means for kickstarting their companies, but they still need support afterwards. Prize organisers are increasingly aware of this and are now examining how to provide professional guidance.

“We are isolated, and being able to rely on a team that can give us support or advice when we are in doubt is essential,” said Johanna Senyk, founder of the Wanda Nylon fashion label and winner of the 2016 ANDAM prize.
 
Françoise Seince, director of the Ateliers de Paris, concurs. The organisation in the French capital is one of the few that offers work space to young fashion designers. “It is a way of helping them to reach out. Interaction is essential,” she said.

In the same vein, the IFM (the French fashion institute) set up the IFM Labels programme six years ago, an initiative that also supports emerging designers by helping them interact with one another and share their experiences.
 
"It is important for [emerging designers] to (...)  know exactly what their message is, and when they do, to follow it simply and openly," concluded Mark Alizart, in charge of the LVMH prize.

Translated by Nicola Mira

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