Vying for the LVMH Prize: Young, Gifted and Important to Know


“It’s quite humbling,” said Molly Goddard, the English designer, as crowds of spectators pushed through the aisles to inspect each designer in turn. “You realize you’re a tiny little pea in a big pool.”

It’s a role reversal of a kind for Ms. Goddard, who emerged from London Fashion Week last month as a big pea: the winner of the British Fashion Award for British Emerging Talent in 2016 and the woman behind one of London Fashion Week’s most charming shows. To display her fall collection, she laid a table for her models and sat them down over wine and Cokes to chat and flirt as they would at a dinner party, negotiating their giant tulle tutu dresses, which are Ms. Goddard’s specialty (though, she added, far from the only thing she makes).

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The designer Molly Goddard.

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Agnes Dherbeys for The New York Times

Young though she may be, Ms. Goddard is not a fledgling. Since leaving Central St. Martins’ graduate program without a degree in 2014, she’s been touted as a comer, stocked at some of the most important stores for fashion (Dover Street Market in particular) and has developed her own signature.

She is not alone. Swimming upstream through the dense crowds at LVMH, dodging Mr. Lagerfeld and his entourage here, a cluster of Arnaults deep in conversation there, the overall impression was of a professional cadre of young designers who have been facing crowds from their very beginnings.

“If I remember when I started and we did our first collections at school, it was not this level, honestly,” said Ms. Chiuri, on a break from the Dior studios, where she is working on her new collection. “Ours were just a little bit simpler. Now it’s different. I see more quality.”

In those days, designers a year out of graduate school were not granted an audience with the artistic director of Dior.

“When I started in fashion, normally you started to bring coffee,” she said with a laugh. “I started this way: coffee and photocopying.”

The challenge for most of these designers has not been attracting attention. The fashion media, churning through its own version of the 24-hour news cycle, is not slow to anoint next big things who scarcely have a look book or a full rack of samples to their name (yes, guilty).

The challenge is translating early momentum into a sustainable business, especially an international one. (This is an especially tricky subject at the moment, as suggested by the visa issues facing two of the foreign-born, American-based designers. One, Maria Kazakova, who designs Jahnkoy, was advised by her lawyer not to leave the United States, so she talked visitors through her collection via Skype on an iPad.)

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Charles Jeffrey Loverboy discusses his collection with Suzy Menkes, international editor at Vogue.

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Agnes Dherbeys for The New York Times

“You kind of have to scream when you start,” said Charles Jeffrey, the Scottish designer who emerged from, and remains tethered to, the London club scene. “Then you have to control the chaos.”

Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, his label, is named for Loverboy, the party he hosts at Vogue Fabrics, the club in the Dalston neighborhood of London’s East End. And Mr. Jeffrey lives the life that he D.J.s both during and after business hours. At LVMH, he wore his usual makeup and plume of bleach-yellow hair, like an 18th-century courtier with a hint of Leigh Bowery, the performance artist.

Mr. Jeffrey’s exuberance has delighted London (“You have to meet Charles,” said Jefferson Hack, the co-founder of Dazed magazine, to Mr. Lagerfeld, as the designer made his way through the stalls around 9 p.m.), and his combination of Westwood-esque tailoring and crafty pastiche can be very winning. But he is working to shape it into pieces that can be more readily reproduced than those he makes from found treasure and trash.

“We can push that a little bit further going forward,” Mr. Jeffrey said. “I kind of relied on that chaos. But coming here — you can still speak that language in a refined way.”

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The Altein fall 2017 show in Paris.

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Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

There was refinement on display in several corners, including at Atlein, the new label by Antonin Tron, who worked under Mr. Ghesquière during that designer’s halcyon days at Balenciaga (as well as under his successors). The debt is evident in Mr. Tron’s snaky jersey dresses and wool tweed jersey tailoring, but no less welcome.

Mr. Tron’s pants, as they came down the runway at his first proper show earlier in the day, and the meticulous slither of those jersey dresses — probably as unconcealing and thus unforgiving a fabric as you can get — fit beautifully. Getting them that way, I observed, must have been a nightmare of pins and tiny tweaks. “Yeah,” Mr. Tron said. “We take the time. I like to take the time.”

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The designer Kozaburo Akasaka, right, with a model wearing his designs.

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Agnes Dherbeys for The New York Times

And there was craft at Kozaburo, the New York-based collection by the Japanese designer Kozaburo Akasaka, who painstakingly shreds, reweaves and teases old jeans into a lichenous, nearly furry texture and fine wool into a raw-edged, anxious, punky version of the suit, with a knock-kneed, high-water pants silhouette that recalled the late, great Tokyo-based designer Christopher Nemeth. Mr. Akasaka still makes every piece by hand in his studio (which is why a pair of those jeans will run you about $3,000). If the long-term viability of such a project is in question, the immediate impact isn’t.

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The designer Martine Rose.

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Agnes Dherbeys for The New York Times

Contrast that with another men’s designer, Martine Rose, showing nearby. Ms. Rose, based in London, is a hero to the men’s wear wonks there (though she sells her collections to women’s stores, too). She’s got a deft way of unnerving you with the bare materials of everyday life: chavvy sportswear and office drab. It was a surprise, though a funny one, to see her take on the daily uniform, pinning neckties with nameplate Martine Rose pins and tucking them into pants with threewaistbands and two belts.

Mr. Akasaka has only a single store carrying his collection: Dover Street Market in New York. Ms. Rose has 60. Even so, she said, she cannot rest on her laurels. “It’s a funny old game,” she said. “It can change in a — —” She snapped her fingers.

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A look designed by Ms. Rose.

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Matthew Schneier/The New York Times

That is the inherent difficulty of a system that raises young designers to success early, but often leaves them without the infrastructure to maintain it. Even a win here is not a guarantee of success.

Earlier in the day, Vejas Kruszewski, the Canadian designer, showed his collection in a small gallery on the Rue Bergère. Mr. Kruszewski works out of Toronto, a bit removed from the nerve centers of fashion, but he has a wily and intelligent way of splicing odd references (here, Italian Renaissance painting) into a collection that looks modern and street-easy. He had taken the necklines and the puffed sleeves of several centuries back and recut them in leather and towel cloth. Suddenly, they looked tough.

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The designer Vejas Kruszewski at last June’s LVMH Prize 2016 event for young fashion designers. He received a special award of 150,000 euros.

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Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images

Last year he walked off with a special award at the LVMH Prize, pocketing €150,000. The award brought new recognition, new opportunities (he is now moving his production to Italy, which will make the collection easier to sell to European stores) and cash flow, and Mr. Kruszewski was clear about how important it had been, at a crucial juncture.

“The brand wouldn’t exist if I didn’t have that money,” he said.

But it goes fast, eaten up by the constant demands of presentations, production and overhead.

“It’s all gone now,” he said. “One way or another, it kind of trickles away.”

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