Article in brief: The author contemplates the result of a designer participating in design competitions.
When I first discovered Project Runway, the process that contestants went through fascinated me. The drama that ensued behind the scenes created another form of entertainment. The results however were equally important, and hearing different kinds of criticism from the judges clarified neglected aspects of a designer’s piece.
Throughout every season of Project Runway, the audience views how some contestants evolved and developed a better aesthetic (leading to a winning streak), while others settled for a loss, unaware that their designs were not cut out to be part of the group of finalists. What confused me though was that very few of the designers who won the competition were successful in the industry. The only designer who succeeded and was consistent with his clothing line was American designer Christian Siriano(winner of the fourth season of Project Runway), who still shows at New York Fashion Week every season and sells his gowns at different retail stores like Symphony in Dubai and Neiman Marcus store. I believe that fashion competitions have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to mentoring an upcoming designer.
As nerve-wracking as the process may seem, contestants get more out of the competition than just winning the prize. Experience can be counted as one of the reasons why designers should aspire to join fashion competitions, such as the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund competition. The Council of Fashion Designers of America and Vogue magazine fund the winner of the competition, who will receive $300,000, and two runners-up who will both receive $100,000. “The mission of The Fashion Fund is to identify young American designers and help them succeed in business”, Steven Kolb, the CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America said. The panel of judges includes people like Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, American designers Reed Krakoff, Andrew Rosen, Diane von Furstenberg, and Mark Holgate to name a few.
“We want to support designers that are going to be the future of American fashion,” said Anna Wintour in one of the promotional videos titled “The Presentations” for the competition which explains what the The Fashion Fund is all about. It’s no wonder, since they get hundreds of applications to view and choose from, which is a pretty grueling procedure. One detail though that I didn’t admire about the competition is the fact that most of the winners spanning over the years happen to be men, with women only making it as far as runners-up. This is shocking since three permanent judges happen to be women -them being Anna Wintour, Diane von Furstenberg, and Jenna Lyons– who are all successful in their careers; one would think that they’d assist the female participants in carving their own careers, but instead you see male designers such as Paul Andrew, Greg Chait and Joseph Altuzarra claiming the prize.
Regardless, you see the female designers (who were previous contestants of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund) such as Jennifer Fisher, who was one of the 2012 finalists, go on to expand their lines and stocking them at several retailers such as Net-a-Porter, Colette, Harvey Nichols and Barney’s to name a few. The Elder Statesman designer Greg Chait however, did not account as much success as Fisher although he was the winner of the competition in the same year. The same goes for Joseph Altuzarra, who won the competition in 2011 but fails to resign to a proper aesthetic, not to mention his tendency for bad taste.
For upcoming designers, competitions can be an essential system for assistance and beneficiaries that can contribute in the success of their brands. But a vital part of all that comes with having good taste and authenticity, otherwise it doesn’t make much of a difference even if one wins the competition. After all, what’s the point of winning if you lack an important basis such as good taste and authenticity? It’s like asking a fish to climb a tree.
Reem is a fashion fanatic. She used her talents of critiquing to start a blog called “We Voice Fashion” along with a partner that shares her views on the world of fashion and design. Through her column, she likes to explore fashion in a philosophical way at times.
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