On Monday, the CFDA and Vogue announced the latest crop of finalists vying for seed funding, mentorship and priceless exposure as part of a new cycle of the Fashion Fund competition. While in recent years the contest has boasted a relatively diverse spectrum of applicants, Black design talent hasn't consistently made it to the final and most media-visible round of judging. This year's landmark selection of four brands (out of 10 finalists) helmed by Black designers may indicate an inspiring industry pivot toward greater mindfulness of the historic exclusion of Black designers from key spaces of acknowledgement.
Since the fashion fund's inception in 2003 until this year, only four brands selected as finalists have had Black/biracial/multiracial designer's at their helm: 2009 runner-up Monique Péan, Carly Cushnie of 2011 winner Cushnie et Ochs, Maxwell Osborne of 2013 winner Public School, and Aurora James of 2015 winner Brother Vellies. It's likely that a complex host of factors have contributed to the lack of Black applicants in the most of the fund's various previous final round cohorts; among them, lacking industry-influential networks, foregoing the costly expenses associated with showing during New York Fashion Week and having non-traditional (by Seventh Avenue standards) customer bases are commonly expressed as hurdles by fledgeling Black designers. What may often go unspoken is the implicit bias and/or outright prejudice to which fashion's top-tier community of tastemakers is not immune.
While those challenges — and many others — persist (there are notably no Black women among this year's finalists), it's quite inspiring to see that a new generation of Black creatives may be making the bold strides toward the sort of sustained success that has previously eluded many of their intrepid predecessors. Also working in their favor is the fact that in recent years, the fund has begun awarding prizes to three finalists instead of one — perhaps in an effort to foster more equitable support of the industry's young talent across gender, geographic, and racial boundaries.
Get to know the "fab four" with their eyes set on taking home this year's prizes.
Christopher Bevans of Dyne
Aesthetic: Dyne sits at the harmonious intersection of wearable tech's cutting edge and althleisure's sleek-sporty appeal.
Previously: Bevans worked with Nova's Tony Melillo and helmed teams at Sean John and Nike prior to launching Dyne in 2015.
Brand must-haves: Performance popovers that are as well suited for efficient airport travel as they are for attacking a strenuous hike.
Telfar Clemens of Telfar
Aesthetic: Long before Gigi Hadid and Zayn, the Telfar collection was exploring gender neutral territory along with retro-modernist minimalism.
Previously: Clemens is longtime friends with Hood By Air's Shayne Oliver with whom he has often DJ'd at nightlife icon Venus X's legendary GHE20G0TH1K parties.
Brand must-haves: Telfar's logo-medallion embossed leather totes are pure anti-establishment luxury.
Victor Glemaud of Victor Glemaud
Aesthetic: Art-informed alta-moda knitwear comprises the core of the Victor Glemaud collection assortment
Previously: A graduate of F.I.T., Glemaud worked for years as a fashion publicist at powerhouse firm KCD before simultaneously designing both the men's and women's Tommy Hilfiger collections.
Brand must-haves: Slashed Smedley-style jumpers and decolletage-baring fine gauge styles (of which Selena Gomez is a fan).
Matthew Harris of Mateo
Aesthetic: Mateo purveys fine jewelry with updated Art Deco influences, classic in its simplicity and contemporary in its creativity.
Previously: Harris earned a B.S. in Hospitality Management prior to dedicating his efforts to jewelry design and launching Mateo in 2009.
Brand must-haves: Fall 2017's collection featuring a modernist re-envisioning of pearls in an inarguably timely manner.
UPDATE, July 21, 2:44 p.m.: This post has been updated to include designer Monique Péan, nominated for her eponymous jewelry line in 2009.