Launching a fashion line is not an easy task, by any means. However, with the proliferation of competition-driven funds and prestigious awards, there is more support available now than ever to promising young designers hoping to create a lasting, viable business -- particularly in the U.S.
These competitions are typically underwritten by brands and companies that can somehow benefit from being aligned with fashion designers, and finalists are generally judged by a panel of industry insiders. They're typically looking for designers that are at least somewhat established (i.e., they've produced more than one collection, and have a least one or two orders from retailers), though a few of the competitions are open to students.
To help navigate these waters, we've compiled a comprehensive list of fashion competitions. There are tons of these around the world, but we've only included those for which U.S.-based designers are eligible, and almost all of them include some sort of cash prize or sponsorship. While a few of them are still accepting applications, many of them have deadlines in the spring, meaning you have plenty of time to craft a perfect portfolio for 2015.
International Woolmark Prize
The Prize: Each regional finalist receives AU$50,000 ($46,861.25) cash sponsorship and the opportunity to compete in the IWP final. The overall winner receives a AU$100,000 ($93,722.50) sponsorship, and his or her winning merino wool capsule collection will be stocked in more than one dozen of the world’s most prestigious fashion retail locations.
Qualifications: For the first time this year, a winner is chosen for both menswear and womenswear. Entry is by invitation only based on this criteria.
How and When to Enter: Express your interest to your regional nominating body. They are listed here.
CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund
The Prize: Three designers receive business mentoring from a team of industry professionals. A winner also receives $300,000 and the two runners-up receive $100,000 each. The designers also create capsule collections for J.Crew and are featured in Vogue and in a docu-series.
Qualifications: Have garnered substantial and recent editorial coverage, and have orders from top retailers; are based in the U.S.; have a minimum of two years in business; have professional staff, paid or volunteer.
How and When to Enter: Request and submit a preliminary application, accompanied by a 350-word biographical statement, which should include a summary of the applicant’s design career. This year's deadline has already passed. More info here.
The Prize: The winner will receive a grant of €300,000 ($408,426), as well as personalized assistance from a special LVMH team in developing his or her company for a period of 12 months. Finalists are judged by a jury of creative directors from various LVMH houses.
Qualifications: Designers under 40 years old who have presented and sold at least two women’s or men’s ready-to-wear collections.
How and When to Enter: This year's deadline has passed, but applications will be accepted online here.
Dorchester Fashion Prize
The Prize: A one-off endowment of £25,000 ($42,899.50) plus a two night consecutive stay for the winner and guest at one of the promoter's hotels, subject to availability.
Qualifications: Applicants must be a resident of the UK, France, Switzerland, Italy or the U.S.; have an established design business and operated his or her brand for a minimum of two years and a maximum of five years at time of application; be designers of couture, ready-to-wear clothing and/or premium accessories.
How and When to Enter: The prize was cancelled this year due to controversy over Dorchester Collection owner, the Sultan of Brunei, whose enactment of punishments against gays in Brunei was met with disapproval by prominent members of the fashion and entertainment industries. Assuming it's back next year, applications can be submitted online.
ANDAM Fashion Award
The Prize: The Grand Prix winner receives €250,000 ($340,355) and the First Collections winner receives €75,000 ($102,106.50).
Qualifications for the Grand Prix: The applicant must not have won either of the two ANDAM grants in the past two years, nor any other prize with a financial endowment in the past year; have distributed for a minimum of three commercial seasons internationally; have generated a turnover between €300,000 ($408,571.50) and €3 million ($4,085,715) worldwide in 2013; own a French company or, if based outside of France, be prepared to set up a French company during the same year as the receipt of the fellowship.
Qualifications for the First Collections prize: Same but have commercially marketed at least one season and not have generated a turnover of more than €500,000 ($680,205) worldwide in 2013.
How and When to Enter: Enter online, though the deadline has passed for this year.
Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Fashion
The Prize: The Vilcek Foundation will award three prizes of $50,000 each to young fashion professionals who demonstrate outstanding early achievement.
Qualifications: The prize is open not only to designers, but also stylists, makeup/hair artists, "image makers," "curators" and writers. Applicants must have been born outside the U.S.; be born on or after January 1, 1976; be a naturalized citizen or permanent resident (green card holder) of the U.S.; intend to pursue a professional career in the U.S.; not be a past winner or finalist of the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise.
How and When to Enter: Applications are currently closed for 2014. More info here.
Hyeres Fashion Festival
The Prize: €15,000 ($20,421).
Qualifications/How and When to Enter: Check back here in September for 2015 details.
Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation
The Prize: A $25,000 grant to show at New York Fashion Week.
Qualifications: Applicant must be at least 21 years of age; be a U.S. citizen and have a business based in the U.S. that was established no more than five years before date of application; have a minimum of one retail account.
How and When to Enter: Fill out an online application and provide three industry references, 10 photos of completed looks and a video. More info here.
Design Entrepreneurs NYC
The Prize: Around 35 businesses are selected for a free "mini-MBA" program at FIT that teaches emerging fashion designers how to run a successful label. Then, the program awards $25,000 for the winner and $10,000 for the runner up.
Qualifications: Designers are required to operate New York City-based companies that have been in business for at least one year.
How and When to Enter: This year's class has been chosen, but stay tuned to its website for next year's info.
H&M Design Award
The Prize: €50,000 ($68,071), your own show at Fashion Week Stockholm and an opportunity to sell pieces from you collection in a number of H&M stores.
Qualifications: Applicants must plan to graduate from a 2014 BA or MA qualifying program (or equivalent to that) from a participating college.
How and When to Enter: Email your name, college, phone number and e-mail address to email@example.com by July 31, 2014 at the latest.
International Talent Support
The Prize: This year, there were several awards applicants were eligible for, including cash prizes ranging from €2,500 ($3,403.50) to €25,000 ($34,035), as well as internships with Diesel and Trussardi, and a feature in Vogue Italia.
Qualifications: Applicants must be college students in their final year of a Fashion Design course (BA or MA), recent Fashion Design graduates or young talents who work as Fashion Designers.
How and When to Enter: You'll need to submit sketches, a concept, photos of past work, a cover letter and a registration form. Deadline will be March 2015. More info here.
VFiles Made Fashion
The Prize: The opportunity to show at the VFiles show during NYFW.
How and When to Enter: Upload examples of your work to Vfiles.com by July 15.
CFDA/Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge
The Prize: One Grand Prize of $75,000 and two First Prizes of $5,000 will be awarded to help increase the winning designers’ sustainable practices, and/or the promotion of sustainability in their design, business and Fashion Week shows/presentations.
Qualifications: The designers’ fall/winter 2015 collection must contain no less than 30 percent eco fabrics or materials.
Uncommon Goods Jewelry Design Challenge
The Prize: $1,000 and the opportunity to work with UncommonGoods.
The Qualifications: You must be a U.S. resident within the 50 states and District of Columbia and at least 18 years old.
How and When to Enter: Submit images and product descriptions by July 31, 2014 at 11:59pm ET. More info here.
The Prize: DHL provides an export development strategy that includes shipping and logistics assistance, marketing and public relations support, along with an enhanced social and digital platform that will include an e-commerce portal to support sales for the winning designers collection. In addition, DHL Exported will provide a venue and production costs for designers to debut their collections on-schedule for two consecutive seasons at one of the following trade events: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York, London Fashion Week, Milan Fashion Week or Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo.
Qualifications: The program is for fashion designers established in their local market looking to further expand their brand across international borders.
How and When to Enter: Submit an application for 2015 beginning next February. More info here.
Lycra Future Designers (WGSN Global Fashion Awards)
The Prize: he chance to work with expert mentors at INVISTA, owner of the lycra brand and receive $20,000.
Qualifications: Applicant must be a current student (or have graduated in the 12 months since June 2013) from a recognized fashion/design school on any fashion design course.
How and When to Enter: Submit designs that could be created with lycra, as well as a 500-word citation explaining them. Enter here.
Avery Dennison RBIS Emerging Brand (WGSN Global Fashion Awards)
The Prize: €12,000 ($16,337)
Qualifications: Applicants must have graduated from a recognized fashion design/marketing course within the 24 months preceding June 30, 2014, or have established their brand within the 24 months preceding June 30, 2014.
How and When to Enter: Entry is open. Submit your citation and images here.
Independent Handbag Designer Awards
The Prize: Each winner is featured in the September issue of InStyle and the recipient of the Best Handbag in Overall Style and Design award gets his or her bags sold in select Bloomingale's locations.
Qualifications: Have a handbag design to submit.
How and When to Enter: Applications are closed for this year, but check back here for more info.