Next Gen: Surviving the Prize

At the time, he was barely 23 years old and had never even studied fashion design, but the 2013 debut collection of Simon Porte Jacquemus was an instant sensation with buyers, press, and fashion aficionados. Jacquemus' trajectory has since been seen as the ultimate success story among burgeoning fashion designers, many of whom aspire to become the next "Jacquemus." Sadly, their dream will eventually fade into the harsh reality of the highly-competitive luxury industry. 

In fact, the conversion of a young designer's name into a profitable luxury brand is basically unpredictable, as there is no miracle formula for this type of success. "The brand becomes successful when the gap between creativity and market logic disappears. This gap disappears when the brand is in-line with the desires and dreams of its generation," wrote Jean Claude Ellena in his book What is Creation?

That said, most young designer brands daily face a harsh financial reality and cannot wait for this so-called gap to disappear spontaneously. Considerable efforts are, in fact, required to create a nurturing entrepreneurial ecosystem around young, independent designers – hence the importance of awards dedicated to young designers, such as the ANDAM and the LVMH Prize. However, one can’t help but wonder: what happens to all the other independent designers? All the young designers who, for example, are included in the final round, but are unable to win the sumptuous award? "It takes much more than a ‘one-shot’ award and short-term mentoring to ensure that a young independent brand can survive in the long haul," stated Frédéric Maus, Managing Director of Who's Next – Première Classe trade shows

This is why Frédéric Maus has decided to join forces with the Istituto Marangoni to create an incubator that aims to support young designers on a longterm basis. The applications are currently open, and the ten shortlisted candidates will be announced by mid-November. The three selected winners will be announced shortly after, and will benefit from an on-going personalized mentorship, with a focus on sales development, and a free entrance pass to reputed Parisian trade shows. The latter includes an individual booth at three professional trade shows: two during Who's Next (January and September 2020 editions) and one during Première Classe (March 2020 edition). In addition, the Istituto Marangoni in Paris will offer a personalized mentorship by its academic staff, as well as permanent access to its photo studio, atelier, and masterclasses. 

"The physical and academic resources of the school combined with the visibility and professionalism of Who's Next provide solid support to our future prize winners," explained Valérie Berdah Levy, Director of the Istituto Marangoni in Paris. "We hope to support as many talented young designers as possible, especially the ones who lack financial resources. This project is a long-term incubator designed to help young designers sustain their businesses for many years to come."  

With about a hundred applications already registered since its launch, LabScene demonstrates that the existing support dedicated to young designers is seemingly not sufficient. According to an official report, since 2012, DEFI (the committee for the development and promotion of clothing in France) has supported more than 30 young talents, providing €8 million in loans and enabling these new fashion designers to increase their turnover by an average of 2.6 times. If the amount of money invested is significant, the number of supported designers is less so: apparently, only an average of four designers have been supported per year in France, within the last seven years. 

Does this mean that young designers are not worth the investment? Certainly not, but they must be able to stand out from the masses, and bring an added-value to an already saturated luxury market. "I am always looking for designers who know how to differentiate themselves, how to create their own universe, and offer quality products with real commitment-based values. They have to surprise us buyers, and lead the change," concluded Anissa Draa, Printemps' e-commerce buyer and member of the LabScene jury. "It is always difficult to criticize a young designer who has the courage and audacity to embark on a business as exciting and challenging as a fashion brand," Draa added. "But if I could give them some advice, it would be not just to appropriate inspirations from other established designers, but to truly break the limits of their own creativity in order to create bold and timeless statement pieces. Basically, their main challenge is to answer the following questions through their designs: What will remain of my work? What will people remember? It is by answering these questions that they will eventually succeed."

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