The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Awards Grants to 10 Independent Designers


If there is one thing that fashion has learned over this pandemic year, it’s that business as usual doesn’t work in times of extreme struggle. With that in mind, the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund has rethought its structure; instead of presenting one top prize and two awards to runners-up as it has in the past, the fund is offering grants to 10 American brands. The designers receiving the grants and a year of mentorship from industry leaders are: Batsheva Hay of Batsheva; Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta of Eckhaus Latta; Anifa Mvuemba of Hanifa; Rebecca Henry and Akua Shabaka of House of Aama; Kenneth Nicholson; Jameel Mohammed of Khiry; LaQuan Smith; Abrima Erwiah of Studio 189; Edvin Thompson of Theophilio; and Willy Chavarria.

“After an incredibly challenging time for all of us in fashion, especially here in New York, we’re thrilled that this year we are able to support all of our finalists,” said Anna Wintour, global editorial director of Vogue and chief content officer of Condé Nast, who sits on the selection committee with Vogue’s Mark Holgate and Chioma Nnadi, Aurora James of Brother Vellies and the 15% Pledge, Instagram’s Eva Chen, model Paloma Elsesser, Saks Fifth Avenue’s Roopal Patel, Nordstrom’s Sam Lobban, the CFDA’s Steven Kolb, and Tom Ford. “It’s not only a vote of confidence in their talents,” continues Wintour, “but in a brighter future for American fashion.”

The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, founded in the wake of the September 11 attacks and the ensuing economic downturn, has a mission to support and nurture rising American talent. Over the past 18 years, it has awarded prizes and mentorship to young upstarts who would become some of American fashion’s brightest stars, from Proenza Schouler to Telfar. Its reformatting as a grant has precedent; last year, the CFDA and Vogue launched A Common Thread, a grant program that raised more than $4 million to support American fashion businesses. Applicants and recipients of A Common Thread were invited to apply for 2021’s CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, as were past CFDA/Vogue finalists and emerging designers.

This year’s 10 finalists will receive their grants and mentorship at a particularly difficult time for independent labels. As the industry continues to shift under the pressures of the COVID pandemic, budgets are shrinking and retail and media networks are somewhat less agile than previously. An injection of funds alongside the advice of other designers and retailers can save a young business.

“This year’s talented group of Fashion Fund finalists is facing an industry in the process of reinvention and transformation,” says Tom Ford, the chairman of the CFDA. “The program’s new format aims to help the designers better navigate and thrive in fashion’s future.”

The next step for the 10 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winners? We hope it’s at a newly reinvigorated New York Fashion Week, which this September will include must-see shows from past CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund recipients Thom Browne and Pyer Moss, among others.

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