Just moments ago in Paris, Iris van Herpen was announced as the winner of 2014's ANDAM Award. The Dutch designer, who famously encased several of her models in plastic wrap this past Paris Fashion Week, will receive $342,000, the opportunity to collaborate with Thecorner.com, free crystals from Swarovski, a guaranteed buy from Canadian department store Hudson's Bay Company and, maybe most importantly, a year of mentoring from Kering CEO Francois-Henri Pinault. Coperni, winners of the second prize -- which is not a runners-up award, but instead awarded to one French newcomer each year -- will receive $103,000, which isn't too shabby either.
While there are now dozens of fashion competitions -- the LVMH Prize and the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund among them -- ANDAM (which stands for National Award for the Development of Fashion) has been around longer than most: 25 years. And it's also unique in that the winners must commit to working in France. (A smart way to pump new blood into the French fashion system.) On Wednesday, before the jury met, I spoke with ANDAM founder Nathalie Dufour regarding what was about to go down.
Can you talk a little bit about the nominees and why they made the cut this year?
ANDAM is a special prize because the designers have to be ready to show in Paris and to build French companies. They have to [understand] French "savoir faire." They also have to have yearly sales that are less than 3 million euros. These seven were nominated because they have creative potential and proposed realistic development plans. Fausto Puglisi's collaboration with Ungaro has turned him into a perfectly accomplished professional. Iris van Herpen is a sensitive, truly inventive talent. Etudes Studio, a young French collective of emerging talents, is immersed in all sort of arts: photography, prints, contemporary art, publishing. The wideness of their universe, which includes menswear and accessories, is already compelling. I'm sure you know Rad Hourani well, since he used to show for many years in New York. And that you're already aware of the cleverness of his unisex concept. We're thrilled that he would consider coming to show ready-to-wear in Paris. Jean-Paul Lespagnard's commercial progressions have interested retailers, while Steven Tai has collaborated with Bless and Viktor & Rolf. Yiqing Yin already won the [newcomer] prize in 2011. She's been progressing at a strong pace since this first award.
Has it become easier or harder to choose nominees as more startup brands emerge?
A lot of designers would like to show in Paris, and ANDAM gives them that opportunity. So yes, there are more and more applications sent to us from all over the world. And yes, the general quality is improving. It's becoming heart-breaking to only nominate seven!
You have a different jury every year. How did you choose 2014's group?
The jury includes our new sponsors, and we're thankful this year to have the Kering Group, M.A.C. Cosmetics and Tomorrow Showroom join us. We also invited tastemakers and fashion personalities like Ellen von Unwerth and Caroline de Maigret. We're really pleased to welcome them.
What is the judging process like?
The 25-person jury reviews each of the seven nominees' spring 2015 collection prototypes -- three to five looks -- that they show both on real models and on racks. For the major prize, foreigners have to explain why they want to become a French company and to show their collection during the Fashion Week in Paris. For the French, they will have to convince us of the strength of their business plans. We expect them all to have a convincing strategic vision and a solid commercial development plan.
There are so many fashion competitions, but ANDAM is one of the first and most highly regarded. What do you think about all the new ones?
It's great that Paris and other scenes offer so many opportunities for young designers. Fashion always needs new talent and, as you said previously, there are more and more young people attracted to the fashion industry. I can only applaud that many people want to join us in the effort we initiated 25 years ago. In the past, we've recognized what have become worldwide powerhouse brands, like Martin Margiela, A.P.C., Jeremy Scott and Viktor & Rolf. The winner of ANDAM will become an official part of the prestigious Paris fashion scene.
This interview has been edited and condensed.