Fashion finally crowns a new prince who is determined to make the industry more relevant

Fashion finally crowns a new prince who is determined to make the industry more relevant

From left: Actress Emily Blunt, runner-up Jonathan Cohen, winner Kerby Jean-Raymond, Vogue editor Anna Wintour, runner-up Emily Adams Bode and Steven of Fashion Designers' Steven Kolb, executive director of the CFDA-Vogue Fashion Fund Awards Dinner. (Neil Rasmus / BFA.com)

NEW YORK – Kerby Jean-Raymond won the most lucrative and prestigious competition for young American fashion companies on Monday. His brand is Pyer Moss, a sportswear label that represents its unmistakable social, political and aesthetic standpoint. His fingerprints are everywhere. It is an author collection.

His victory at the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund Awards not only speaks for his success as a designer, but also for his ability to make fashion a place of high social engagement and responsibility. The industry also applauds itself with the applause of Jean-Raymond's work.

And yet the Jean-Raymond Prize is one of the few that the annual competition has done well lately, as it too often reflects the mania of the industry for buzz, novelty and other sugar-rich qualities that are not necessarily consistent with building a lasting one Career are compatible.

Jean-Raymond, who founded his label in 2013, received a timely T-shirt, which listed the names of the colored people who had been killed in police brutality. When he wore it to present his collection to editors and buyers in September 2014, the bold message of social justice was pervaded by the fashion industry and prepared the audience for the upcoming complex runway productions that included visual arts, live vocals and musicians ,

[[[["Stop Calling 911 in Culture": The strong message Pyer Moss brought to the fashion industry]

There were hurdles as he built his brand. He lost accounts because of his outspoken nature. He struggled to regain financial control over his company. With a team of artists and architects – people whose creative experience is out of fashion – he has written a message celebrating the unique stories of the colorful and placing them in the broader context of shared experiences. Pyer Moss has referred to the eccentric wardrobe of Jean-Raymond's Haitian immigrant father, the modest beauty of church choir robes, the urban coolness of sportswear, and the soulfulness of contemporary art.

Every designer offers something unique, but the uniqueness of Jean-Raymond is how well he is attuned to these cultural times. He has used both his fashion and his runway shows to promote conversation about gun violence, police brutality and endemic racism. His work captures the diversity of voices required to be heard, the feeling of cultural upheaval and the notion that authentic life is simply a powerful form of protest.

He has underpinned his open-minded ideas with collections that are getting better and more thoughtful. On the way he has signed up for the necessary cooperations: He is at Reebok. His clothes also had a part of moments on the red carpet on the backs of socially engaged celebrities like Yara Shahidi.

Today, Pyer Moss is also well positioned to speak widely with the place that fashion takes on in cultural conversation. In fashion, topics come together from immigration to police brutality, where diversity is paramount, beauty is defined, gender is discussed and creativity is slowed down, eaten and spat out.

The winner of this year's contest was announced by actress Emily Blunt at a dinner at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Among the winners, runners-up and finalists of the past few years is almost every vivacious young designer this city has produced – from the first winners of the competition, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez from Proenza Schouler, to Joseph Altuzarra, Prabal Gurung and Victor Glemaud. Over the years, the cash award has increased to $ 400,000. The invaluable prize, however, is the one-on-one business mentoring that allows designers to master the financial risks of the industry. Runner-up were Jonathan Cohen and Emily Adams Bode; They each receive $ 150,000.

The Fashion Design Council of American and Vogue founded the Fashion Fund in 2003. In this period before 9/11, fashion was mainly due to shaky financial reasons and wrestling with many demons. The runways and magazine cases were particularly homogeneous in terms of race, ethnicity and size. Many worried about the well-being of models, from their working conditions to their physical health: the average sample size had dropped from six to two in the 1990s, and industry had to reckon with the impact of their casting decisions on the mental health of disadvantaged young people women.

The CFDA-Vogue Fashion Fund has helped in many ways. By adding and empowering a new generation of designers, the award allowed new perspectives to make a difference. Many winners and runners-up in the fund have been instrumental in promoting larger models, gender flows and ethnic diversity. They have helped to change the demographics of the runway, providing a first glimpse into the mindset of the industry.

This year's dinner included the traditional chicken pot pie and a finalist show worn by singers, dancers and aerialists instead of models. It was a remarkably varied affair, with the stage no longer dominated by skinny bodies and white men – as even Rev. Al Sharpton, curious and amused, remarked. He was a guest of Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, who suggested he be present after addressing them to discuss the diversity in the fashion industry. The civil rights activist said after the prize dinner that he was pleasantly surprised by the representation he saw.

Of course, the faces on the slopes are just the most visible aspects of the fashion industry. One must also ask: Who owns the retail trade? Who finances the brands? Who edits the magazines? And who chooses the models and hires them?

In recent years, however, the CFDA-Vogue Fashion Fund has also highlighted the weaknesses of the industry and the associated challenges. Fashion has an insatiable appetite for foul-mouthed talents and a business model that regularly demands the crowning of a new It designer. There is little patience waiting for designers to find their way. And it has trained consumers to see, buy (buy), dispose of, repeat. In its annual search for ten finalists, the judges of the fashion fund have brought many brands into focus, which did not attract as much attention in retrospect. Many designers said the Next-Great prodigies were no longer in business, or their brands had been so completely reinvented that they were barely recognizable. In some cases, the judges seemed so fascinated by the vision of a brand that they seemed to celebrate a puzzle game, an aesthetic experiment, not a practical clothing store.

[[[[Fashion is very hard nowadays. Too heavy. And only occasionally for it to work.]

As a result, the public was forced to listen to the industry praised by companies claiming to attract Lady Gaga or Rihanna or the Drag Queen next door and comparing that experience with their willingness to sell to a wider audience to become. The whole world may be a stage, but few of us are lead performers in our own costume drama.

With this group of finalists, the CFDA and Vogue released Batsheva Hay's humble prairie dresses and Hunting Season's streamlined handbags, based in New York and based in Bogota, Colombia. It celebrated the work of designers whose families are rooted in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Her work honored the crafts of the American South and challenged the definition of what it means to be American, male, female or beautiful.

These are admirable achievements and topics that are worth thinking about. The question is whether they have the ability to become enduring businesses.

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