In a first for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, the award has been given to all 10 finalists as opposed to the winner and two runners-up. The CFDA and Vogue said in a statement that they hope to re-invigorate the industry after a trying year, and hope the newly restructured grant helps bolster a strong showing at fashion week in the fall.
Vogue reports that the 10 finalists who will receive an influx of cash and mentorship from the Council of Fashion Designers America, which only previously worked with the top three designers, will include: Batsheva Hay of Batsheva; Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta of Eckhaus Latta; Anifa Mvuemba of Hanifa; Rebecca Henry and Akua Shabaka of House of Aama; Kenneth Nicholson; Jameel Mohammed of Khiry; LaQuan Smith; Abrima Erwiah of Studio 189; Edvin Thompson of Theophilio; and Willy Chavarria.
Previous winners of the $400,000 and $150,000 grants, given to the winner and two runners up respectively, include Jezebel favorites Christopher John Rogers (whose FW 2020 show lives rent-free in my brain), Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss, and Telfar designer Telfar Clemens. The effects of receiving said grant, I think, are obvious—exposure, branding mentorship, and sales. The Telfar bag, for instance, has become the most sought after new-luxury item across a wide swathe of consumers.
Among the designers listed above, I want to take a brief moment to celebrate LaQuan Smith, king of the plastic cheetah dress and cowboy hat, who sent a brilliant collection down the runway in 2020. At the time I praised Smith for his deep understanding of the market for which he designs. I expect fabulous things of him and the house after the grant money hits the bank account.
Wintour also said: “After an incredibly challenging time for all of us in fashion, especially here in New York, we’re thrilled that this year we are able to support all of our finalists. ” Regardless, the move to award all designers the grant seems like it could be tactical as well—at least for Anna Wintour, who has received an overwhelming amount of criticism in the last year for allegedly racist work environments at Condé Nast, the undoing of Bon Appétit, and André Leon Talley’s memoir, which called Wintour a “colonial broad.”
In her statement following the announcement of this year’s finalists, Wintour claimed that “It’s not only a vote of confidence in their talents, but in a brighter future for American fashion.” To those same designers, I say: take the money and run with it.