For all of you budding young designers based in America, the CFDA has officially begun its annual search for America’s most promising young designers. Each year, the CFDA awards a $200,000 grant to the winner, along with mentoring from a recognised fashion business guru as part of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. Past winners include the intelligent and talented Doo-Ri Chung (looking super glam in this ad) who is mentored by J.Crew’s legendary Mickey Drexler and the refined-beyond-their-years Proenza Schouler design duo, Jack McCullough and Lazaro Hernandez, who were mentored by Burberry’s impressive former CEO, Rose Marie Bravo.
This is a really great initiative from the CFDA and other venerable fashion names like Barneys New York and Vogue. That said, I have one suggestion to make it even more powerful. I believe the CFDA should supplement the business mentoring and cash with a requirement and access to funding for the winning designers to find a suitable day-to-day business partner/advisor. While mentoring from an experienced fashion business executive is priceless, it does not make up for daily support and partnership.
I have made this point before, but so many young designers try to do everything on their own, and this means they deal with areas where they might not have any formal training or expertise. One look at the long list of established designers who have relied on business parters to act as thought partners on day-to-day decisions and to share the workload, shows that this is a real pattern of success in the industry. Marc Jacobs (who has Robert Duffy), Miuccia Prada (has always worked with her husband Patrizio Bertelli), Tom Ford (who with Domenico De Sole turned Gucci around from a fuddy duddy backwater brand), Giorgio Armani (Sergio Galeotti worked with Armani for years before he passed away), Valentino (Giancarlo Gianetti is still his business partner, even if he is no longer his life partner), and Derek Lam (Jan-Hendrik Schlottmann) have all shown that this tandem approach can help to get the business off the ground properly, allowing the designer to focus more on the creative aspects of the business.
This ad above, from today’s WWD, lays out all of the requirements and the application procedure. Good luck!