The 2018 CFDA + Lexus Fashion Initiative revealed its five designer/brand finalists at an event tonight at The Blond in New York.
The finalists have embarked on a nine-month sustainable business development program that runs through June 2018. The five designer/brand finalists are Cienne (Nicole Heim and Chelsea Healy); M. Patmos (Marcia Patmos); Studio One Eighty Nine (Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah); St. Roche (Sue Stemp) and WHIT (Whitney Pozgay and Parker Argote). The program began in October.
In December, each of the designer/brand finalists will have the opportunity to receive a micro-award of $20,000 to advance strategic research and their design goals for the program. Each designer will present his or her initial blueprints and, pending approval, will receive the money.
In addition to CFDA-led mentorship throughout the program, participants will have the opportunity to engage and work with a team of advanced students led by Tensie Whelan, head of NYU Stern’s Center for Sustainable Business. Throughout the program, there will be in-person mentorship meetings, as well as in-person workshops and roundtables.
By the conclusion of the program in June 2018, each brand will present a final strategic blueprint, framing their goals within a key area for continued commitment to sustainability. One brand will be selected as the winner and will be awarded $80,000.
The program, which was launched last year, has changed in several ways. Last year’s program was 17 months long. Also, the prize money has changed from $150,000 for the winner and $50,000 for two runners-up, to $80,000 for the winner, and $20,000 for the five finalists during the program to put actionable items to work. Lexus and the CFDA felt the designers needed the money in order to implement the sustainable changes they are blueprinting for their companies.
As for the change in length of the program, a spokeswoman said it was shortened to promote immediacy, action and full engagement from finalists.
Rachel Espersen, creative programming and partnerships at Lexus, said, “The CFDA + Lexus Fashion Initiative was conceived with the goal of inspiring innovative business practices and positive change in the American fashion industry. Our ethos at Lexus is to advance the concept of sustainability without sacrifice. The designers who have been chosen to participate in the CFDA + Lexus Fashion Initiative 2.0 are thought leaders who have demonstrated their commitment to making sustainability a priority for their companies.
“We at Lexus are excited to support the five finalists — Cienne, M. Patmos, Studio One Eighty Nine, St. Roche and WHIT — on their nine-month journey to enhance sustainabililty in their businesses,” she added.
Steven Kolb, president and chief executive officer of the CFDA, said, “Today, there is more opportunity for fashion to create a positive environmental and social impact than ever before. Through heightened consumer awareness, fashion collaborations, and product innovation, designing for good no longer means having to make creative compromises.”
The inaugural program’s winner was Erin Isakov of performance line Erin Snow, who won the top prize of $150,000. Maria Cornejo of Zero + Maria Cornejo and Wing Yin Yau of Wwake were the two runners-up, each collecting $50,000 to put toward the strategies they worked on over the course of the program.