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Susan Fang
@susanfangofficial

Meet five global fashion talents up for the LVMH Prize

Hailing from Amsterdam, Seoul, Lagos, and Shanghai – discover why these designers are getting noticed

Since its launch in 2014, the LVMH Prize has become the most prestigious award for rising fashion designers. Past winners of the main prize (a casual €300,000 and a year’s worth of expert mentoring) include Marine Serre and Grace Wales Bonner, while Simon Porte Jacquemus and Hood By Air’s Shayne Oliver count among the Special Prize winners. This year, the nominees feature a line-up of some of London’s best young designers, including Kiko Kostadinov, Richard Malone, and Stefan Cooke, but there’s a lot more to the list than just the Brits. Here are five new names to get familiar with.

DURAN LANTINK

“The vagina pants have put me on the radar,” says Duran Lantink, the Dutch designer behind those now-iconic pink vulva pants sported by Janelle Monae. That’s definitely not all you need to know him for, though – the nominee has one of the most exciting and original approaches to the idea of sustainable fashion right now. His clothes are entirely made from reworked garments left over from end-of-season sales – a lighthearted, playful take on upcycling which has seen him glue Balenciaga boots inside Miu Miu heels, stitch a Marques’Almeida blouse to a Vetements polo shirt, add vintage Gaultier sleeves to a Helmut Lang jacket.

“This all originated from my frustration with mass production in high-end fashion and the culture of sales,” Lantink says. “With my concerns about overconsumption, I would like to have an open discussion about brands’ responsibility on textile waste.” These fashion bootlegs – and the idea of cutting up even the most sacred of labels – prompt some serious questions about just what we revere when it comes to designer clothing.  “In general I hope to change how people value products. Fusing luxury brands into unique pieces is a form of counterfeiting.”

Lantink also wants to use his work to tell the stories of communities pretty far from the fashion world – like Sistaah Hood, a transgender sex workers community based in Cape Town, who he cast in a project with photographer Jan Hoek. “We created outfits from the things we found on the streets in Cape Town! We are hoping to do a fashion show as that is their biggest dream. For me, it’s important to collaborate with different communities so they can tell their stories. It teaches me more about life, and it’s good to let them know they’re seen and respected by people.” Future plans include building an AI program to help combine deadstock into new pieces, but first, he’s thrilled to be in the running for the LVMH Prize: “It’s a perfect opportunity to show the people in the fashion industry what I stand for.”

@duranlantinkyo

SUSAN FANG

“The most important thing that I learned from CSM is that we always hold complete freedom to be able to do anything we desire – if we can imagine the image in our mind we can create it in real life,” says London-based designer Susan Fang. She’s not kidding – to create her intricate weaved pieces, she’s had to develop new tools each season physically capable of knitting them. “What inspired me the most was to invent new design and new ways of making or perceiving clothing,” she explains.

The designer, who grew up between China, Canada, the USA, and England, taps mathematics as a key source of inspiration – in particular fractals, patterns that are complex yet precise. “I wanted to replicate that in clothing; rhythm, movement, yet linked by a repeated concept,” Fang says. “Thus I created air-weave. By switching the perspective of traditional weaving, the air-weave is completely free to grow in three dimensions instead of just 2D. It is able to have life, and is able to move, stretch, and swim between dimensions, and has freedom in the expression of colour as it constantly changes through body movement.” The idea of a wearer is key for Fang – the garments can stretch to accommodate different body sizes, and are only really complete when worn.

Beyond industry recognition, being nominated for the prize is an opportunity for Fang to meet her fellow designers. “I always feel like such an outsider of fashion and just overly concentrated on my creations, so I’m excited to meet and hear from them!”

@susanfangofficial

KENNETH IZE

From music to fashion and even skateboarding, there is serious noise coming from the Nigerian city of Lagos right now. Designer Kenneth Ize is certainly contributing to it. “At the moment fashion in Lagos is one of the focal points of the growing local design and arts scene which makes it an exciting time to be working here,” says the designer, a graduate of the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. “People who may have moved abroad before are staying in Nigeria and building a new cultural infrastructure which I believe will be followed by larger institutional projects.” His colourful, handwoven suits are a signature, and he’s already had his pieces worn by Childish Gambino and Naomi Campbell.

For Ize, technique is paramount – the clothes are made using traditional Nigerian weaving, a skilled craft but one under threat of fading away. “The brand focuses on reinterpreting examples of Nigerian and West African artisanship to create an original perspective on luxury production within textile and fashion,” Ize says. “We work with a community of weavers, and also with a variety of artisan and design groups, merging a contemporary design aesthetic and new production skills with a specifically local handcraft practice.”

He says the nomination for the LVMH Prize is both encouraging and humbling – and a reminder that he now has other expectations to live up to beyond his own. Plans for the future centre around fostering a community of craftspeople. “At home in Lagos we want to build out the infrastructure surrounding the weavers and other artisans, to develop our existing techniques and explore new ones not only in Nigeria but in the broader West African region. It is important for us to show the artisanal techniques which exist here and to support the communities of artisans which continue these traditions.”

@kennethize

CAROLINE HU

Although Caroline Hu’s father painted when she was younger before going on to pursue a career in business, the New York-based designer also credits an art teacher as an influential figure in her creative development. The connections make sense when you look at her work, where dresses inspired by Renaissance masterpieces more closely resemble vivid bursts of colour and texture boldly breaking free of their canvasses than traditional garments. With fabrics layered and smocked, some pieces include up to 20 different materials – yet remain impressively lightweight.

But the inspiration for her creations – which she honed at both Central Saint Martins in London and Parsons in New York – also comes from within. “I always like to meditate, and think about myself, my own story, and my feelings,” she says. “My designs are my personal emotional expression (of) some moments… The process is sometimes tormented, but when the expression of the work turns out right, I’m really happy.” Hu, who made her debut with a presentation at NYFW where models sat around reading or busied themselves painting in front of easels, hopes to continue growing the business side of the brand along with the artistic one – and which her nomination will certainly help with. “The LVMH Prize is such a significant and rare experience for me,” she says.

@carolineqiqi

KANGHYUK

Having two pairs of hands rather than just one is pretty useful when it comes to starting a fashion label, as designers Choi Kanghyuk and Sanglak Shon have discovered. The two met and became friends at the Royal College of Art, which is also where the starting point for their brand was developed in KangHyuk’s MA graduate collection, which made use of car airbags – something that’s become a signature for KangHyuk. “I was interested in the purity of the nylon airbag and how it works in terms of creating seams and wearability,” the designer explains. “Our design process focuses on utilising materials in their purest form, while looking at mass produced taste in real life and juggling the balance between materiality and concept.”

If making clothes from car airbags sounds complicated, that’s because it is. “In the specific case of the airbag material, that a majority of our collections so far have been made with, we need to first source the unused airbags in different parts of the world, then we manually extract the oxygen metal chamber, which is a very physical procedure,” the designer explains. “From there we unpick the fabric by hand and try use the original patterns of the fabric as they are, via utilising a computerised process to jig-saw the pieces together.” The result is, perhaps surprisingly, aesthetically strong – and has so far earned them launches and installations at London’s Machine-A, H. Lorenzo in LA, and made in-store bespoke installations at Comme des Garçons Trading Museum and Dover Street Market. You might also have seen them on A$AP Rocky – the Fashion Killa wore a full look in his recent “Tony Tone” video.

@_kanghyuk 

Models: Shunjing @ NEXT, Eniola @ NEXT, Nika C @ New Madison, and Thiam @ BANANAS.