Laquan Smith
Laquan Smith (Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)

On Thursday, April 27, the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Vogue announced its CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund participants — but with a twist. 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 ten finalists include 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 of Kenneth Nicholson, Jameel Mohammed of Khiry, LaQuan Smith of LaQuan Smith, Abrima Erwiah of Studio 189, Edvin Thompson of Theophilio, and Willy Chavarria of 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 said in a press release. “It’s not only a vote of confidence in their talents, but in a brighter future for American fashion.” Per a release, “The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund was established after 9/11 to help emerging designers and cultivate the next generation of American fashion talent. The newly reimagined format for the 2021 Fashion Fund is an evolution to address the challenges the American fashion industry is facing, granting funds to all finalists and personal mentorship with industry leaders based on designated areas of need.”

The application was open to emerging designers as well as past CVFF finalists and designer recipients of funding from 2020’s “A Common Thread” (ACT) initiative, which provided financial relief for those in the fashion community affected by the COVID-19 pandemic — this is how Batsheva is participating again. She was also a finalist in 2018 (though Pyer Moss’ Kerby Jean-Raymond won that year). The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund can be a pivotal moment in an emerging designer’s career. Winning the $400,000 prize and a year of mentorship from some of the industry’s biggest names has the power to change the trajectory of a brand (Telfar won in 2017), or even create one. It’s what brought us Alexander Wang, Proenza Schouler, and Public School.