S.S. Daley Wins the 2022 Edition of the LVMH Prize for Young Designers
PARIS — S.S. Daley won the 2022 edition of the LVMH Prize for Young Designers at a Thursday ceremony dominated by menswear designers.
British designer Steven Stokey-Daley, 25, has captured hearts and minds with his theatrical shows at London Fashion Week that view the British class system through a queer lens, gaining high-profile fans including Harry Styles, who wore his graduate collection in his “Golden” music video.
“I see it as taking these antiquated, stuffy old ideas of British heritage, that often feel exclusive to one section of Britain, and offering it new life, new breath, to pull it into a modern context from my own working-class perspective,” explained Stokey-Daley, who works with U.K.-manufactured or deadstock fabrics.
Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett revealed the winner at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in the presence of jury members including Kim Jones; Maria Grazia Chiuri; Nigo, the new artistic director of Kenzo; Silvia Venturini Fendi; Stella McCartney; Nicolas Ghesquière; Jonathan Anderson, and Delphine Arnault, the force behind the prize and a key talent scout at luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
“This is like an Oscar, actually, Cate, so thanks very much,” said Stokey-Daley, who was once an aspiring actor. The designer beat some 1,900 applicants to walk away with a grand prize of 300,000 euros, plus a year of coaching from experts at LVMH, parent of brands including Louis Vuitton, Dior, Fendi, Givenchy, Loewe and Kenzo.
Olympic gold medallist Eileen Gu presented the Karl Lagerfeld Special Jury Prize to joint winners ERL and Winnie New York, who both receive 150,000 euros and a year of mentoring. ERL founder Eli Russell Linnetz was considered a frontrunner among the finalists after guest designing a Dior menswear capsule collection that was unveiled in his native Venice Beach, California, last month.
Meanwhile, Nigerian-born, London-raised designer Idris Balogun impressed the judges with his menswear brand Winnie, rooted in his experience as an apprentice on London’s exclusive Savile Row, and as a senior menswear designer for Burberry and Tom Ford.
Jonathan Anderson said the jury was moved by the mettle of a group of designers emerging in the midst of a global pandemic.
“What was really nice this season was that I think everything was a result of a happening in someone’s life,” the Loewe artistic director said. “With fashion, we need to start trying to find out why we do it, so instead of looking at the product, why do we end up going there? And I think this is what was really inspiring.”
Daley’s gender-fluid take on the uniforms of the British upper classes, such as wide-legged trousers, argyle-knit wool vests and embroidered shirts appeals to a Gen-Z sensibility, and a growing female customer base.
“A younger generation is looking at that as a norm, whereas when I started my brand, it was not a norm. But I think that shows progress to me, and I think this is what’s exciting,” said Anderson of Stokey-Daley’s gender-fluid designs. “Menswear, I think, deserves a bit of a spotlight sometimes.”
It happens that two designers strongly associated with menswear joined the jury for this year’s edition: Venturini Fendi and Nigo.
However, the artistic director of Fendi accessories and menswear also sees clothing definitions becoming more blurred. “Menswear doesn’t mean anything nowadays. Menswear appeals to women, too,” Venturini Fendi said, pointing to her own navy oversized shirt and dark pants.
Nigo said Stokey-Daley won over the group with his resourcefulness, having launched his brand during lockdown from his parents’ front room in Liverpool, England.
“I was very impressed by how he managed to develop something that seems very complete and well structured within such a short amount of time with basically no help, even to the extent of him packing the boxes to send out to shops himself,” Nigo said via an interpreter.
“The collection is very nice, really well articulated, with knitwear, sportswear, all the categories, and we think that he can do great things with his brand,” added Dior’s Chiuri.
Arnault said in addition to having a highly recognizable aesthetic, Stokey-Daley charmed the jury with his personality.
“He talked a lot about his grandmother, who is a retired seamstress. Not only did he show great courage and a strong entrepreneurial streak by launching his brand during lockdown, but he also corralled his grandmother and her friends to help sew the collection,” she said. “Nicolas [Ghesquière] said it was practically a movie.”
Stokey-Daley, who runs the brand with his boyfriend, said he looked forward to using the prize money to expand his team, even though he was apprehensive about relinquishing control. “I am very fussy, and I like to do everything myself,” he said. “I need to relent some responsibility to others. I think where we need help is the e-commerce, because it’s a massive job.”
Though the S.S. Daley brand is carried by just a dozen retailers, he’s happy to grow his wholesale network gradually.
“I’m not interested in selling to a million people and have sell-through be awful. To me, it’s really about the longevity and the full lifespan of that garment, and where that goes, and so we work really hard with our current retailers to ensure maximum sell-through,” Stokey-Daley said.
The designer credited the label’s existence to Styles and his stylist Harry Lambert.
“Harry Styles wore a shirt and a trouser in that [‘Golden’] video, and we put both of those up for preorder on our e-comm when the video came out, and so we were able to capitalize on that straightaway, which gave us the financial start to actually go and create a collection,” he said. “He’s super supportive, and he’s also super genuinely lovely as a person.”
Stokey-Daley is preparing his next show in September, which he promises will again challenge the traditional runway format. “Often it’s more of an experience than just a catwalk. I’m personally of the belief that if some people are traveling from all over the world to see a show, they should see a show-show. It’s also a great opportunity to collaborate with other creative industries,” he said.
He’s also mulling the possibility of showing overseas. “It’s something that we have to consider. I do think that as a British designer showing in London, it can sometimes feel quite a small circle, and so maybe the next thing would be to branch out and explore how we can connect to our international customer,” he mused.
Linnetz is used to pitching his ideas for music videos and stage sets to world-famous performers like Kanye West and Lady Gaga, but admitted that presenting his clothing designs to the heavyweight designers on the LVMH jury had him feeling nervous for the first time since he was a child.
“This is about how I see the world, so for me, this is much more exciting, because you’re really sharing the art that you’re creating, as opposed to creating the art for someone else,” Linnetz said.
Winning the Karl Lagerfeld Prize felt especially poignant, he said. “I feel like he’s almost such a legend, you forget how much he was a pioneer. So I feel like being compared to a pioneer like that is super exciting. It’s someone who really understood art,” he said.
While ERL already has a powerful production partner in Dover Street Market Paris, Linnetz is keen to beef up his team with some design assistants and a chief financial officer.
“A lot of the questions they asked in the interview were very business-oriented, and I think that’s really important, because everyone that’s here has so much creativity, but someone that can translate that into business is exciting and can reach more people,” he reasoned.
He’s also preparing to open his first store in Paris, though he said turnover won’t be the main driver of his future boutiques. “This first store is just going to have like one item at a time, so it’s very small, and they’re more artistic expressions. They’re not like full retail experiences,” he explained.
Balogun said his priority was to launch direct-to-consumer sales. “To be part of the winners is an amazing and humbling feeling, because I try to have a very protective feel over Winnie,” Balogun said. “We’ve just struck a deal with our factory in Italy for them to handle distribution, so this is like perfect timing.”
His presentation to the jury focused on his “farm-to-table” approach to fashion, which includes making his own fabrics, in addition to using deadstock and upcycled materials.
“I wanted them to understand this idea of our ways of approaching sustainability, this collection being one of the first that we worked with most of the fabrics from the fiber all the way down to the finished product. Like, for example, the linens in here are ones that we actually planted over a year ago, in Italy, ourselves,” he explained.
Each winner will receive credit to purchase fabrics from Nona Source, the platform that sells surplus fabrics from the LVMH fashion and leather goods brands.
The LVMH Prize is open to designers under age 40 who have presented and sold at least two collections of women’s, men’s or genderless ready-to-wear.
It has previously been awarded to Nensi Dojaka, who won the 2021 edition; Thebe Magugu; Doublet; Marine Serre; Grace Wales Bonner; Marques’ Almeida, and Thomas Tait. It has also boosted the careers of its runner-up special-prize winners, which include Rokh, Jacquemus and Hood by Air.
Three students graduating in 2022 were awarded 10,000 euros each and a one-year placement in the design studio of an LVMH brand.
Filippo Bendanti, a graduate of Università Iuav di Venezia, in Venice, Italy, will join the women’s ready to wear division at Dior; Miriam Griffiths, of Central Saint Martins in London, is headed to the women’s rtw department at Louis Vuitton, and Valeria Pasco, who graduated from Ateliers Alix in Paris, will join the Dior men’s team.