"I'm from Longview, Texas, so to be in Paris at LVMH... I can cry if I think about it too much but I don't want to do that in front of everyone," designer and stylist Brandon Maxwell told me earnestly from his booth at Wednesday night's LVMH Prize cocktail, where some of the most prominent members of the industry, from Karl Lagerfeld to Riccardo Tisci to Anna Wintour, gathered to take in the designs of the competition's 23 semifinalists from across the globe. Having just flown in from Los Angeles after dressing one of the most famous people in the world (his client Lady Gaga) for what's arguably the biggest red carpet event in the world (the Oscars), Maxwell could have been forgiven for feeling slightly superior to, or more established than, some of his competitors. However, he honestly may have been the most humble, gracious person there.
"The people that I've gotten to meet through this, I would have never gotten the chance to meet in my life," he said breathlessly. "I've worked in this industry as a stylist, but for instance... like Tim Blanks today, or Julie Gilhart and people like that, you wouldn't necessarily meet as a stylist."
Talking to Maxwell and a few of his competitors, it almost felt like winning the prize — which includes a 300,000-euro grant and "personalized assistance in the development of his or her company" by LVMH for one year — was an afterthought. "I haven't even [considered] winning because the fact that I'm here already feels like a win for me," he said.
"The best part of the LVMH Prize is the dialogue that I get to have with very talented and experienced people — being able to get feedback about my collection," said Matthew Williams of the New York-based brand Alyx. "It's not really about winning a prize and getting some kind of money that you're going to spend eventually, but the information and the ideas that you gain — those are priceless." Williams was encouraged to self-edit, while another competitor, Mongolia-based Moto Guo, received advice on how to make commercial versions of his show pieces, which are not the most wearable.
We also spoke to the Paris-based Christelle Kocher of the buzzy brand Koché, who is an LVMH Prize semifinalist for the second year in a row. While she still values the (continued) opportunity to have a dialogue with jury members like Humberto Leon and Phoebe Philo, she'd understandably like to win, too. "[It] would be amazing to invest into my business," she said. But, she added, she's not putting any extra pressure on herself just because it's the second time around. "It's a really positive thing."