Posted by Irene Ojo-Felix | September 3rd, 2019

An Illustrated Guide to This Year’s LVMH Prize Finalists
Tomorrow LVMH will announce the winner of their 2019 Young Fashion Designer Prize. Though its finalists have labored over their respective brands for years, perfecting their individual visions, and earning accolades, the event held at the Louis Vuitton Foundation will provide their work invaluable exposure and international positioning. Not to mention face time with the contest’s prestigious jury that includes the likes of J.W. Anderson, Maria Grazia Chiuri, Marc Jacobs, Clare Waight Keller, and others. The eight, globally diverse finalists are ANREALAGE, Bethany Williams, Bode, Hed Mayner, Kenneth Ize, PHIPPS, Stefan Cooke and Thebe Magugu. They’ll showcase their work competing for a grant of 300,000 euros plus technical and financial support from the LVMH Group for 12 months. Regardless of who takes the top spot, previous editions of the Prize have shown that each finalist nominated already has the potential mettle to make it in the fashion industry.

Illustrations by Artaksiniya for


No one quite connects the future and the past of fashion like Emily Bode. Her designs are often inspired by personal histories—of her own family and those of her collaborators—and involve vintage textiles she spends months sourcing, but this upcycling also forms the forefront of where the industry is headed in a time when sustainability has become a new standard. She shows her collections during men’s fashion weeks (including, for the first time, in Paris this past June), but her clothes are ultimately genderless. Her creations are sometimes one of a kind, fulfilling a burgeoning desire for individuality in an age of overexposure. It’s no surprise, then, that she picked up the CFDA Award for Emerging
Designer and has been nominated for this year’s LVMH Prize.

Having just launched her eponymous brand in 2016, Bode has found fashion coming around to her terms in many ways. A lifelong collector—she recalls building vignettes of antique toys in her childhood bedroom—she says she is drawn first and foremost to the material properties of things, which is why her Chinatown studio is an overflowing archive of secondhand fabrics from around the world she often turns to for ideas. “What is most inspiring,” she explains, “is the relationship and the emotive quality that objects can create or evoke.”

With dual degrees in philosophy and menswear, Bode says she is always considerate about “the way that I think about the life that I want to build and the questions that I ask.” She is aware of the position she holds as one often anointed as the “future of fashion,” even if she insists that what she does—making the old new again—is simply the only way she could imagine doing it. As for what lies ahead, “it’s really continuing to change the culture of dressing,” she offers, “that I feel like we’ve changed in the last three years.”


With rising awareness of clothing’s impact on the environment and the laborers that create it, fashion designers have been tasked with stepping up to the challenge of sustainability in an overflowing, competitive market. Bethany Williams has taken up the cause wholeheartedly, refusing to disjoint her vivid designs from her ethical values of protecting the environment and social welfare.

Founding her brand in 2016 after getting an MA in Menswear from the London College of Fashion, Williams has focused on changing the way we produce clothing and finding innovative ways to reclaim textiles. Her genderless, knitwear heavy collections often rely on recycled yarn created out of ocean waste plastic and denim.

With the idea of metamorphosis in mind, Williams’ collection for Fall 2019 named The Butterfly Café was inspired by her collaborative work with ‘Spires’, a charity that helps to care for hundreds of homeless and disadvantaged people in South London. The aforementioned collection name was inspired by the charity’s weekly social meeting space for women, where they learn and develop skills in arts and crafts, jewelry making, knitting, and card making and where the designer herself ran embroidery workshops. With 20% of the profits from the collection going to the charity, it is Williams’ hope that her personal ethos inspires the rest of the design community to think beyond vapid consumption.


As the Nigerian creative scene reaches an emphatic fever pitch, designer Kenneth Ize emerges from the masses with a colorfully graphic viewpoint and strong desire to modernize the familiar. Born in Lagos and raised as a youth in Austria, Ize has navigated between these two worlds with one foot planted firmly in the deeply rooted traditions of his past, the other fully embracing a mainstream fashion community that he knows he can add to plentifully.

With a traditionalist, iro and buba adorning mother and tracksuit-wearing father, Ize’s familial influences also balanced between the two sides of the diasporic spectrum. What they both agreed on was if Ize wanted to explore a new frontier in designing, he would have the get the education to make it legit. “That’s the only option my parents would accept from me as a Nigerian family,” said Ize. “Even though they’re so very open, they still were really like ‘You need to have a degree.’” That dual degree from the University of Vienna put him in the same sphere as Husein Chalayan, another fashion heavyweight with a strong design viewpoint, and also allowed him to realize the importance of education in growing a fledgling design industry in his own homeland. “I want to make sure that weaving is in the Nigerian curriculum for public schools” Ize explains. “I want so many things beyond just fabric [development]. I want to push the brand. I want to push my country. I want to do so many things.”

After moving back to Nigeria in 2016 to found his label, Ize has shown numerous collections in the local market but this year introduced him to a global audience, with or without LVMH’s help. Artists Childish Gambino and Burna Boy, have both been seen wearing his pieces on numerous high-profile occasions but the success has not made Ize forget his ultimate goals of pushing his menswear and womenswear brand to the next level. For fall 2019 Ize was inspired by the annual Aso Odun celebrations, a Yoruba term for the month-long lead up to Christmas in Nigeria where ex-pats and dwellers show off their finest clothing as if it’s a runway. The result was a colorfully playful presentation that plays with oversized tailoring, traditional tartan, and raw-edged fringe.


The creative license of a young brand allows a certain amount of latitude between business and concept. So when a third-season label brims with both it’s exciting to see which side of the brain will take next action. Stefan Cooke, the menswear project of Stefan Cooke and partner Jake Burt, has so far presented a balancing act: a playground of trompe l’oeil pieces (clothes that require a double-take) and fun, half-invisible argyle in proportional dosage to the more dialed-down. None of which is too hard to fathom on a casual passerby in East London or on the grounds of Central Saint Martins, where the pair honed their craft.

“The label is really based around making the ordinary extraordinary and making do with what we have, reinterpreting found pieces, fabrics or objects, whether it’s buttons made into chainmail or bags fitted with new handles to renew its purpose as a luxury product. The brand is heavily focused on textiles and making something out of nothing,” Cooke’s designers explain. Their latest collection is a “contrast of casual and contrived,” inspired by 15th-century techniques and theater and drama students in New York. “We pick things up from everywhere. Always looking. And we have ongoing conversations about ideas. By the end of the season, you can trace an idea right down to its root, an image or garment.”

Behind every clever influence though, Cooke and Burt are still refreshingly discerning, “A lot of designers should remember to ask themselves simple questions like ‘does this look good?’ or ‘can that be worn?’ There seems to be a lack of actual clothing.” When asked what the LVMH grant money would go towards: “Travelling to visit stores in countries we have never been to like Japan and Korea. We would also like to be able to go somewhere completely new and find fresh research,” the designers reveal.


Difficult is an understatement when you’re talking about paraphrasing Tokyo-born designer Kunihiko Morinaga’s ever-evolving vision, conveyed through his brand ANREALAGE, which Morinaga launched in 2003 while at Waseda University. The name is a portmanteau of “A REAL, UNREAL, and AGE.” His collections, an avant-garde discourse in hand-craft work, conceptual shaping (see his 2010-2011 A/W WIDESHORTSLIMLONG) and technology, can be divided into three studies: 2005-2006 A/W SUZUME NO NAMIDA to the 2008-2009 A/W MUTYU, 2009 S/S ○△□ (ball, pyramid, cube) to 2011 S/S AIR and lastly 2011-2012 A/W LOW to current). No two are alike, but also all serve the purpose of exploring the questions Moringa often proposes with any collection he does, lately that of technology.

Since 2015, ANREALAGE has called the Paris runway home, serving as a stage for its designer to present his latest research testing the interplay of fashion and technology, like his A/W 2019 that scaled-up micro clothing details into macro full-body silhouettes. It’s another example of the “God is in the details” conviction with which Kunihiko Morinaga stresses––a motto, yes, but also an invitation to understand more deeply the Japanese approach to design. All of which has already earned ANREALAGE international recognition winning the Design Vision Award For Avant-Garde at Gen Art competition, the 29th Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix and a tour of his “A LIGHT UN LIGHT” exhibition at the JAPAN HOUSE in LA and São Paulo, and the Rothschild and Centre Pompidou-Metz in France.


PHIPPS, the eponymous, do-good label of San Francisco-born Spencer Phipps, is persuasive in its purchasability. Maybe it’s the designer’s time spent at Marc Jacobs and Dries Van Noten refining his technique or maybe it’s the crunchy, humble, eco-sensitive flavor that rock climbing-loving Spencer stitched into his brand’s DNA. Whichever it is, there is a real, strong sense of substance that frames his 3-collection-old menswear label, now based out of Paris.

“I would say that the main pillars of PHIPPS are based around the ideas of purpose and utility, education, and responsibility. We are trying to do the right thing, to demonstrate that it is possible to be good and still have fun. We want people to be excited about the opportunity to protect our planet––to save the world.” For a small brand, with a team of two, sustainability adds the additional labor of individual know-how, “It’s like a Pandora’s box––there are so many levels to a “sustainable” business practice. Obviously, the most important part is the fabric and manufacturing, but there are so many smaller things to consider like carbon footprints, packaging, office supplies…the list is endless really,” he says. It’s an ongoing practice Spencer has been exploring since his final collection at Parsons School of Design back in 2008. “There is so much research involved in every step of the process and by labeling yourself as a responsible product you are setting yourself up for criticism. It can be really frustrating and limiting at times but I think that’s where it gets interesting. I like a challenge.”


As the first Israeli designer ever to be named a finalist for the LVMH Prize, Hed Mayner recognizes his position in an increasingly global—and globalized—industry. Born and raised in a small town surrounded by forests, he later worked first for a tailor and then a furniture designer before attending design schools in Jerusalem and Paris and launching his own minimalist label in 2014. Mayner’s background lends a sculptural sensibility to his designs, stripped back to their core with long, clean lines, simple shapes, and a muted, neutral palette. “These kinds of clothes that are not necessarily linked to fashion can come from many different references or traditions,” he explains. “I like to see what’s the essence of clothing and work with this idea.”

Mayner has said that he is inspired by Jewish tailoring and also military wear, both omnipresent in his homeland, and the ideas of purity and utility come across clearly in his work. His Spring 2020 collection, coming on the heels of his dual nominations for the LVMH and ANDAM prizes this year, was loose and, in his word, “breezy,” with boxy oversized jackets and caftans that billowed and flowed. As with many of his fellow LVMH finalists, Mayner placed an emphasis on sustainability, using natural fabrics that had a comfortable, homey appeal, accentuated by the straw that peeked out of some pockets. His design process seems to take a similarly organic approach: “Sometimes it’s really about planning certain clothes like objects,” he says. “It’s usually in outerwear pieces that are very sculptural and you feel that the shape was planning the whole piece.” This philosophy—and Mayner’s creations—are a welcome respite from our daily tumult, unhurried and considered in a fast-paced age.


How does one change a perception that precedes their existence? Really good fashion, it seems, as 26-year-old South African designer Thebe Magugu believes. Challenging the framework that has trapped his country in the past, the Johannesburg-based designer has relied heavily on the thriving youth culture in his homeland to mold his aesthetic, instigating conversations through the vivid storytelling of his collections. Aligning with a rising creative scene and striving to show a global audience a modern view of South Africa, the designer saw how just how fashion can get a rise out of people. “I saw it being used as a vehicle in which to instigate change or critical conversations at the very least,” the designer describes. “That’s what draws and excites me about it today.”

Magugu had the framework for design before he could ever officially make a decision on the matter. “I was encouraged by my mother, who has an almost scary love of fashion,” he recalls. From there, he took a multidisciplinary approach at LISOF Fashion School in Johannesburg to better understand the world he wanted to enter. “I feel lucky to have studied fashion design, fashion photography and fashion media because the three have come together to give me a holistic view of the industry.”

With that multifaceted element to his work Magugu has, since starting his line in 2015, fanned the flame of collaboration, working with his surrounding design community to stylishly flesh out his pieces. “A constant in the collection are prints of some kind [whether sublimated or worked into the fabric weave] and then a collaborative aspect,” he gathers.” I love to collaborate with others, particularly those in other creative fields, and seeing how the two might come together to form something new e.g my furniture collaboration with my friend Emile Millard and a hat collaboration with my friend Crystal Birch.” For his Fall 2019 collection aptly named African Studies, Magugu focused on merging references from his heritage with modern, tailored shapes. The result was a print heavy compilation that commits to a boldly colorful palette of vermilion and periwinkle, asymmetrically-leaning proportions and pleats-a-plenty.