There is no guaranteed formula for a successful career in fashion. Prizes, however, have proven to be amongst the most promising opportunities for emerging designers who wish to build a brand of their own. In a time when formal training is no longer a prerequisite and a follower count can decide the fate of a young talent, international prizes have been pivotal in positioning contestants on everyone's radar and connecting them with some of the industry’s key players. Additionally, winners often receive much-needed financial aid and are invited to join various mentoring-programs.
Some of today's most coveted designers began their careers as participants in talent competitions and while not all of them have ultimately won, many of their names have become well known on the fashion scene ever since. To navigate the various international fashion prizes and their varying offerings, FashionUnited has compiled a comprehensive list of the most renowned prizes to date.
The International Woolmark Prize
The list of past Woolmark Prize Winners resembles a lesson in 20th-century Fashion History, and it all started with the wish to promote wool to the global market. The International Wool Secretariat, the Organisation behind the competition, was founded in 1936, though the earliest records of the Prize date back to the early 50s. The original vision was to find young talent that would have the ability to incorporate wool into their designs.
While Valentino Garavani is considered one of the first to have ever won the recognition, 1954 saw two young men compete and subsequently come first in two different categories. They would become lifelong rivals and write fashion history: Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. Saint Laurent, who had already been awarded third place in the competition by Christian Dior, one of the judges, the year before, would move on to eventually succeed Dior. Lagerfeld, on the other hand, would go on to start his career as Pierre Balmain's assistant, after the French Couturier had been the one to produce his prize-winning coat. Nowadays, the prize, which once asked designers to create sketches and now asks men- and womenswear designers to create a wool-rich capsule collection, is ever evolving though wool is still integral to the competition. According to the International Woolmark Website, the “program and commitment to its mission” has resulted in “more than 600 designers who have benefited from the prize since 2012”, having been mentored and educated by industry experts.
Requirements: To take part in the International Woolmark Prize, a designer must have been producing a commercially available product for at least two years, but no more than eight years. Additionally, they should have experience in working with and promoting best practices across apparel supply chains and show a yearly growth in sales. Finally, as the name of the Prize suggests, the designer should be experienced in using wool and be able to use fabrics and textiles innovatively.
Rewards: There are two main prizes to be awarded to designers by the Advisory Council, which in 2021 included industry names like Naomi Campbell, Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, Sara Sozzani Maino and Tim Blanks.
Woolmark Prize Winner: 200,000 Australian dollars (around 130,000 euros) Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation: 100,000 Australian dollars (around 65,000 euros)
Additionally, all finalists will receive a financial contribution for their business and capsule collection.
Past Recipients: Matty Bovan, Bode, Dion Lee, Christian Wijnants, Gabriella Hearst, Giorgio Armani
Next Edition: The international Woolmark Prize will announce this year's finalist on November 15. The winners will be chosen on April 24 2023.
Hyères International Fashion and Photography Festival
Every year, aspiring young professionals and fashion insiders from across the globe flock to the Villa Noailles in Hyères, the art and culture centre of a small town that overlooks the Côte d’Azur. It is a far way from Paris, or any other fashion capital for that matter, but in that lays its charm. Over five days, ten previously selected designers will show seven dedicated looks to a jury composed of some of fashion's most influential figures. It is a place for industry veterans and established fashion houses to get a glimpse of the future of fashion and what it has to offer.
The festival was founded by Jean-Pierre Blanc in 1986 with a dream to create a space that showcases and rewards talented young creatives. He aimed to give them the chance to break into the industry. Many since have, winners and participants alike, and most of them contribute their success to the connections they have made at Hyères. In 2018 the jury, then led by Haider Ackermann, awarded the Dutch designer-duo behind Botter, Rushemy Botter und Lisi Herrebrugh, the Grand Prix. Only months later, the two were appointed creative directors of Nina Ricci, a placement that many designers work for their whole lives. The duo would stay with the brand for the next 3.5 years while simultaneously working on their brand, which has continued to grow and attract attention ever since Hyères. In addition to an impressive jury each year, Hyères is also known for its remarkable partnerships with iconic brands like Chloé, Chanel and Mercedes-Benz, wishing to find and nurture new talent. The German automobile group, which is also active as a partner in international fashion weeks, also brings the winners to the show calendars. Amongst them is the Belgian Tom van der Borght, who won the main prize at the 35th edition in 2018 and subsequently opened the Berlin Fashion Week.
Requirements: The Hyères International Fashion Competition is open to any designer over eighteen who produces men, women or genderless collections. Design collectives are not accepted, the only exception being Designer-Duos. It is highly encouraged to use environmentally responsible fabrics.
Rewards: There are several prizes that the festival jury can award to designers. In 2022, the jury is headed by Glenn Martens, who is joined by previous Jury Prize Winner Ifeanyi Okwuadi and Vogue France’s head of editorial content Eugénie Trochu, to name just a few.
The three most notable prizes of the festival are the following, though other Grants may be awarded as well:
Grand Prix du jury Première Vision: 20,000 euros offered by Première Vision and a collaborative project with the Chanel Métiers d’art team, worth up to 20,000 euros.
Prix le19M des Métiers d’arts de Chanel: 20,000 euros
Mercedes-Benz Sustainability Prize: 20,000 euros
Past Recipients: Viktor and Rolf, Anthony Vaccarello, Julien Dossena, Botter, Tom Van Der Borght
Next Edition: This year's Hyères International Fashion and Photography Festival will take place from October 13 until October 16.
Founded in 1989, the ANDAM Prize, though located in Paris and supported by the French Ministry of Culture and DÉFI (Comité de Promotion et de Développement de la Mode), has awarded and brought forth some of the most notorious designers from all around the globe. The first to ever win the contest was Martin Margiela, setting an example for all the talent that followed.
Founder Nathalie Dufour and president Guillaume Houzé create and organise a yearly program for the finalists and winners that provides them with access to the expertise and advice of the industry. The aim had always been to guide young creatives in the structuring and growth of their company, which is reflected in the different categories the finalist can potentially win. The ANDAM jury and the competition sponsors are known to include bold-faced industry names, ranging from Instagrams Eva Chen to Kering chairman and CEO François-Henri Pinault and LVMH Fashion Group chairman and CEO Sidney Toledano, just to name three of last year's members. The prizes, though considered international, come under some conditions. The designer must own a French company or set up a subsidiary if they win, which explains how previous designers notably have included British designers such as Bianca Saunder. Each talent has to commit to showing collections in Paris and work with a French manufacturer, though it is unclear for how long those conditions must be held up after the competition.
Requirements: The requirements for the ANDAM prize vary slightly amongst the different categories, though a connection to France is essential to compete. The Grand and Special Prizes additionally ask that the participating designer has a minimum of two commercial seasons internationally distributed and a minimum of 100,000 euros in turnover in the previous year and has not won a prize with financial aid the year before.
Rewards: While the Grand and the Special Prizes are the most renowned of the competition, the Pierre Bergé Prize, named Yves Saint Laurent's long-time life and business partner, the Accessory Prize and the Innovation Prize are equally important opportunities for the recipients. Every award does not just come with a sizable monetary compensation, but dedicated and targeted mentorship for each winner.
Grand Prix: 300,000 euros
Special Prize: 100,000 euros
Pierre Berge Prize: 100,000 euros
Accessories Prize: 50,000 euros
Innovation Prize: 50,000 euros
Past Recipients: Botter, Marine Serre, Y/Project, Ludovic de Saint Sernin, Iris van Herpen, Anthony Vaccarello, Gareth Pugh
Next Edition: The competition will open up again in January 2023 with the winner expected to be announced in the spring.
International Talent Support
The International Talent Support, or ITS, might be the least recognisable name on this list, but the competition and its past recipients are no less impressive. In 2004, a young and unknown designer by the name of Demna Gvasalia won the ITS Collection of the Year Award. Matthieu Blazy, on the other hand, has been an ITS finalist in 2006, long before his name has been on the tip of everyone's tongue ever since his debut at Bottega Veneta. The international prize is based in Italy and first took place in 2002. It is the most extensive fashion competition for young creatives, with categories and sponsors ranging from rewards for a fashion, accessories or jewellery finalist to the most socially aware project. The most recent editions awarded different creatives in eleven categories, with varying rewards and mentorships.
Requirements: The competition is open to designers or designer duos. Each participant must be a recent graduate or a student graduating within the year. The designer should be able to show a minimum of five to eight outfits from any season or gender.
Rewards: The different rewards of the International Talent Support Prize vary widely depending on the category the creative is considered for.
These three prizes are amongst the most noteworthy and highly decorated of the competition:
ITS Academy Award: 15,000 euros and a 6-month mentorship by Pitti Immagine
OTB Award: 10,000 euros
ITS Artwork Award: 10,000 euros
Past Recipients: Aitor Throup, Chopova Lowena, Cecilie Bahnsen, Richard Quinn
Next Edition: The ITS-Competition usually starts accepting submissions around May. The winners tend to be announced around September.
The LVMH Prize, established by the eponymous Conglomerate in 2014, is the youngest but already one of the most recognised and sought-after prizes in the industry. Headed by Delphine Arnault, daughter of LVMH chief executive Bernard Arnault and director and executive vice president of Louis Vuitton, the prize is open to anyone under the age of 40 who has produced at least two collections. This has previously caused some to question if the prize supports emerging talent, or rather those who have already gained some experience in the industry. More than any other prize, it has not only been the careers of the winners, but of most selected finalists, that have skyrocketed after their participation. The structure of the competition allowed all finalists to meet with a selected range of fashions finest, to share their vision, designs and ambitions for the future, which could explain the phenomenon. One such finalist who has only ever been a finalist but never won the prize was Virgil Abloh. In 2020, as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic, the LVMH Prize was awarded to all chosen eight finalists. The prize money was distributed equally amongst them. The following year saw the competition resume in its traditional form, with prize money allocated to the winner and the runner-up.
Requirements: The LVMH Prize is open to any designer under 40. Otherwise, the only requirement is for the designer to have already produced at least two collections of womenswear or menswear, or two genderless collections.
Rewards: The jury of the LVMH Prize, which has previously consisted of the likes of Kim Jones, JW Anderson, Virgil Abloh and Sidney Toledano, can award two different prizes.
LVMH Prize: 300,000 euros
Karl Lagerfeld Special Jury Prize: 150,000 euros
The winner of the LVMH Prize additionally receives a one-year mentorship tailored to their specific needs.
Past Recipients: S.S. Daley, Nensi Dojaka, Marine Serre, Thebe Magugu, Wales Bonner, Marques Almeida
Next Edition: The LVMH Prize announces their finalist right around March each year, with the winners usually being crowned a few months later in June.
In addition to the international fashion prizes, there are also a number of competitions and funds that reward local talent rather than global. One of the most famous examples of a national award is the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, which supports and rewards emerging American talent. A Spanish counterpart of the Vogue Fashion Fund also exists.
Additionally, Italian Vogue partners with Altaroma each year to crown "Who Is On Next?", a fashion prize that awards collections that are "made in Italy". Fashion East, on the other hand, is an England-based Talent incubator that has dedicated its time and resources to the next generation of British talent.