The most prestigious fashion award for young designers was presented on Thursday to Steven Stokey-Daley, whose vintage-inspired label, SS Daley, riffs on the uniforms of Britain’s upper class.
“This is like an Oscar,” said Mr. Stokey-Daley as he received the LVMH award from Oscar winner Cate Blanchett at a ceremony at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris.
Mr. Stokey-Daley, 25, will receive €300,000 (currently approximately $322,000) and a year of mentorship from LVMH to support a company that started just two years ago. But those two years were fruitful: SS Daley’s fans include Harry Styles, who wore the designer’s pieces in his “Golden” music video. The looks include a billowy white shirt and oversized floral pants, upcycled from vintage curtains.
Stokey-Daley, who splits time between Liverpool and London, created those pieces as part of his “Brideshead Revisited”-esque graduation collection at the University of Westminster in 2020. On Thursday, he publicly thanked the pop star’s stylist, Harry Lambert, and said: that he “really didn’t expect to win.”
“I know everyone is saying these things, and it sounds like it’s a script, but it was really a shock,” Stokey-Daley said in an interview with DailyExpertNews later Thursday, describing his work “the idea had taken on British heritage, which feels quite outdated and stuffy, and gave it a new, fresh perspective” – a more sensual and androgynous perspective. While the label’s initial focus was on menswear, it will start selling womenswear later this year on Match Fashion.
Mr Stokey-Daley, who said he started the business from his bedroom during the lockdown, will invest his prize money in building his own direct-to-consumer e-commerce channel. He plans to also develop accessories and continue upcycling with deadstock materials.
Delphine Arnault, executive vice president of Louis Vuitton and power behind the LVMH award, specifically praised Mr. Stokey-Daley for his easy-to-wear knitwear and “very clear style”, as well as his “great personality” – a key aspect of the competition , she said, starting its ninth year with 1,900 candidates and finishing with eight finalists.
The jury consisted of several creative directors from the LVMH Fashion Group stable, including Stella McCartney, Jonathan Anderson of Loewe, Nicolas Ghesquière of Louis Vuitton, Maria Grazia Chiuri of Dior and Kim Jones of Fendi and Dior.
“It’s very emotional and it’s a bit stressful,” Ms Arnault said of the assessment process. “They’re right up against all these artistic designers that they’ve admired since childhood.”
Eli Russell Linnetz, an award finalist, likened the experience to “American Idol,” except the jury is a “pantheon of Greek gods.”
On Thursday, the playful, super-California label ERL of Mr. Linnetz named winner of the Karl Lagerfeld Prize, alongside Winnie New York, a label designed by Idris Balogun, a Nigerian-born designer who trained as a teenager with the tailors of Savile Row in London.
The two designers (the only labels of the eight finalists from the United States, by the way) will each receive 150,000 euros and a year of mentorship.
While Mr. Linnetz may have the biggest profile of all the finalists – he just put on his first runway show as a guest designer for Dior Men – Mr. Balogun identified himself as having one of the tiniest profiles and platforms, of which he has become protective. †
“As someone who isn’t there – you know, I don’t meet everyone, I don’t speak to everyone – it’s really interesting to me to see the industry is attracted to the brand and think the brand is worth it,” said mr. Balogun, who also plans to use his profits to start direct-to-consumer sales.
Mr. Linnetz said he plans to expand his design team, to “help share the vision” and feel less “constrained by the hours of the day”, and to employ a Chief Financial Officer to take.
Ms Arnault stressed that all is not lost for finalists who were not honored with the highest accolades. She pointed to Demna (Balenciaga’s mononymous designer) and the late designer Virgil Abloh, both finalists in 2015 who didn’t win the award but whose work has since reshaped the industry.
“Fashion isn’t about running fast at any given time,” said Ms. Arnault. “You have to be persistent and really want to do that all your life.”