Fashion Week SPACE

Riccardo Tisci, Jeffrey Kalinsky and All of New York Toast This Year’s CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Winner

What history will remember of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Class of 2015 is they were the ones who broke the rule—the rule that there can only be one winner.

Anna Wintour, Ricardo Tisci, Rio Uribe Amanda Seyfried, Diane von Furstenberg, Aurora James, Jonathan Simkhai, Steve Kolb

The stars of this year’s CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award ceremony

On Monday, November 2 at Spring Studios in New York, Anna Wintour and Diane von Furstenberg announced, on behalf of a panel of judges that included Nordstrom fashion director Jeffrey Kalinsky, that due to the extreme nature of “authentic” talent in the mix, there would be not one but three winners in this 12th annual fashion competition.

We were there to catch exclusive commentary from past winner and footwear genius Paul Andrew and others, and to pass on the inspiring message from Givenchy‘s creative director Riccardo Tisci—the evening’s keynote guest.

In the simplest terms, Vogue‘s Fashion Fund competition is like a more real Project Runway; designers complete various challenges and tasks and check in with industry mentors—Kalinsky, Wintour and Diane von Furstenburg among them—along the way.

As designer Joseph Altuzarra put it when we stopped him on his way in, “This competition really helps you discover what your brand is about and what you’re about—and the judges really help you with that journey. You have to have a really strong sense of self, and a good understandng of the business.”

That sense of inner knowledge and grounded strength could have been the theme of the evening.


Paul Andrew with model Devon Windsor

“You really think you understand your business and your numbers and where you’re going as a company, but when you’re really forced to look at those things in detail, you realize there’s a lot you need to know,” British-born, NY-based shoe designer Paul Andrew told me.

And his is the perfect voice of experience: Andrew took the title last year. “Winning made me really focus on who I am and I’m really so grateful for that,” he said.

It was the message behind Riccardo Tisci’s sentiments as well.

Givenchy‘s celebrated Italian-born designer mostly hung out with presenter and actress Amanda Seyfried and the multi-hyphenate musician Lorde during the cocktail hour before engaging in an on-stage conversation with Vogue‘s Hamish Bowles, where he recalled the years when confidence and courage were hard to come by—when he thought he would maybe do a line of T-shirts. When he was still forming an identity and understanding his own point of view.

Riccardo Tisci, Lorde, Amanda Seyfried

And then, as Bowles put it, “Givenchy came calling.” Tisci said he essentially cloistered himself away and worked in near isolation to really study and focus so he could put out his “Givenchy wardrobe.” Like a head’s up to the designers gathered there, Bowles reminded Tisci that it took him more than a few seasons before the press—and consumers—understood him.

Bowles also brought up the recently announced departures of Raf Simons from Dior and Alber Elbaz from Lanvin as a way of really driving home the sometimes fickle nature of the industry, but he also called Tisci a perfect designer for our times and noted that his his Instagram account paints a picture of fearless, fabulous globe-traversing success, fulfillment and … yachts, beaches, Champagne and Kardashians.

Tisci says his success is all about something else, though: Love. “Love is not a color scheme or a gender. It overrules all that.”

Riccardo Tisci, Amanda Seyfried

Earlier in the evening, von Furstenberg had thanked all the Fashion Fund alumni, saying “It’s so touching when you come back and support the new designers.” And as Jason Wu said to me during the cocktail hour, “Who ever wins tonight is going to leave knowing that they’re going to have the fashion world behind them—and even if they don’t win, just being involved is a huge honor and they will always be supported here.”

Pardon the appropriation of a cliché, but there really was a lot of love in the room as Seyfried and Tisci prepared to announce the winners.

Shall we get to that part, too?

The actress called them out in alphabetical order: Brother Vellies (creative director Aurora James), Gypsy Sport (Rio Uribe), and Jonathan Simkhai. Each of them receives $300,000 and a year’s worth of mentorship support.

Rio Uribe, Jonathan Simkhai, Aurora James

Aurora James, Jonathan Simkhai and Rio Uribe: CFDA/VFF’s triple threat

If those names are already familiar to readers of this blog and Nordstrom clients, here’s why: we caught the New York Fashion Week shows of Simkhai and Gypsy Sport on the advice of Kalinsky, and Nordstrom VP of Creative Projects Olivia Kim has long been a fan of Brother Vellies; the brand first appeared in our Pop-In last year—and starting this spring, Aurora James’s dedication to African craft and forward-thinking footwear will be on offer at SPACE.

Needless to say, Kalinsky is in full support of all three.

“I think they all represent something different but important,” he told me. “Aurora has a proven DNA and is super clear with her brand’s mission. Rio oozes creativity out of every pore and represents a celebration of that individuality. And Jonathan has proven his ability to grow an amazing business.”

We congratulate all of this year’s designers, and we can’t wait to see what you do next.


Jonathan Simkhai at New York Fashion Week on Nordstrom’s Fashion Week Journal


Gypsy Sport at New York Fashion Week on Nordstrom’s Fashion Week Journal


Image via Brother Vellies


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—Laura Cassidy