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Fashion Stipend winner Mohamed Benchellal: "I'm living my dream"

By Caitlyn Terra


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A design by Mohamed Benchellal. Credits: Benchellal / Photo by Tim Verhallen
Just under a year and a half of waiting, but now the word is out: Designer Mohamed Benchellal is the next recipient of the Culture Fund Fashion Stipend. Benchellal joins a fine list of designers (collectives) who have previously received the incentive award. Benchellal is known for his sculptural work, his couture approach and his work with deadstock materials. His designs are popular on the red carpet, but Queen Máxima of the Netherlands was also seen wearing one of his creations on Budget Day a few years ago. The Fashion Stipend jury praised the designer for his "ode to the sublimation, beauty and poetry that couture traditionally stands for". "Entirely on his own merits and with an unflappable ambition, this designer has put himself on the couture map internationally in a decade with big names and considerable accolades supporting his success," he said. The Cultuurfonds Mode Stipendium considers it an excellent time to give this outstanding standard-bearer of Dutch contemporary fashion a financial injection to boost the next steps in his career," they said.
One of Mohamed Benchellal's designs. Credits: Benchellal / Photo by Tim Verhallen

Mohamed Benchellal wins twelfth Culture Fund Fashion Stipend

The designer has known for some time that he is the recipient of the Fashion Stipendium, but had to keep it quiet for a while - until Wednesday evening, 29 November at the Rijksmuseum. "I was completely surprised," Benchellal recounted during a phone conversation a week before the award ceremony. "Of course, I knew the award existed, but I always say that life never gives you what you want, but what you need. I have already received many beautiful awards and accolades for my work abroad. So I found it very special to receive such an award in the country where I was born and grew up. That does me a lot." Benchellal says he operates on a small scale but has a wide reach. The designer previously took home the 2020 Vogue Fashion Prize and has been included in the Business of Fashion top 500. "I am of course very proud of the awards abroad, on several fronts, but of course it weighs extra heavily when your work stands out and is recognised, honoured and celebrated in the place where you come from. That's another value." The award is one of the few fashion prizes in the Netherlands. "There is almost nothing in the Netherlands that supports fashion designers. In that sense, it is the highest attainable." The Culture Fund Fashion Stipend of the Netherlands is not only a great honour to receive, the title also comes with a cash prize. As such, Benchellal will receive 50,000 euros to help grow and continue his business. Benchellal has no specific plans. "I have always said that for me, money is more a means than an end. What I do, how I operate, is never to get more sales. Therefore, I use the amount of money to further express myself creatively."

Benchellal on Fashion Stipend 2023: "Put it to further express myself creatively"

The style of his work is easily recognisable. How does Benchellal himself describe his handwriting? "I think it has three key elements. Playing with volume is definitely a big part, the proportions of it. Where do you place the volume? It's also a sculptural craft. It's free, draped and sculptural." The designer also says it has the essence of classic couture. "It's very feminine and also empowering. It's definitely for someone who really wants to be in the spotlight. It's larger than life, but I think everything I do is a bit larger than life," laughs Benchellal. That approach - thinking big, which the designer attributes to his Moroccan background. "I get that from home. Everything is pretty big. Live life to the fullest." Does he have any future plans and dreams? Then again, he is down-to-earth about that. "I am pretty much coming to terms with the fact that I am living my dream. I can do exactly what I want and completely unleash my creativity. " "Being able to design what I want without concessions and continue that every day." He admits that he never really looks back at his work and actually never celebrates, but still looked forward to the big moment at the Rijksmuseum. "It's very special to pause for a moment," he says.
A design by Mohamed Benchellal Credits: Benchellal / Foto door Tim Verhallen

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.NL. Translation and edit from Dutch into English by Veerle Versteeg.

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