Paula Abdul, stylists Elizabeth Stewart, B. Åkerlund and Maryam Malakpour, Gela Nash Taylor and John Taylor, Jonathan Simkhai and more gathered Wednesday night at the rooftop bar of The Edition Hotel in West Hollywood to toast a new award for young designers that will bring even more fashion influence to LA this spring.
Fashion Trust US is the brainchild of Tania Fares, who assembled a lively board of advisers for the competition, including Kate Hudson and Miranda Kerr, stylists Karla Welch and Law Roach, LB Media founder and former InStyle editor Laura Brown, Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Samira Nasr, award-winning Oscar-winning costume designer Arianne Phillips and designer/TV personality Tan France.
Fares and friends hosted a cocktail party to raise awareness for Fashion Trust US, which is accepting applications until Monday. The group will announce the 15 finalists in February and the winners during a star-studded event at Goya Studios on March 21 in LA, joining the newly announced Green Carpet Fashion Awards on March 8 as another example of the rise of style in the city.
“We are excited to bring Fashion Trust to the US for designers across the country,” she told the crowd at the event. “We’ve signed up hundreds of designers so far, but if you know of any more, please encourage them.”
Fares, who lives between Lebanon, London and LA, has always had a passion for fresh faces. She founded the UK’s BFC Fashion Trust in 2011 and the Fashion Trust Arabia in 2018. (These competitions have given awards to Erdem, Christopher Kane, Huishan Zhang, Marques Almeida and Hussein Bazazi, among others, with Thom Browne, Marc Jacobs and Naomi Campbell among the judges.)
“I thought this was needed in the US back in 2019; I think it’s needed everywhere,” Fares said over lunch at San Vicente Bungalows, explaining that she and Laura Brown first started talking about starting Fashion Trust US four years ago, but stalled because of the pandemic, which only made the initiative more urgent. .
“What the pandemic has done is diluted people’s interest in young designers,” Fares said. “A lot of my friends that I never thought of are now wearing big name brands because they feel they have more value in them,” she said, reflecting on the reality of the resale market that values established luxury brands over new names.
Fares began living in LA when she and her husband bought a house in Trousdale Estates in 2017, and in 2019 she published “LA Scene,” a book about young designers with then-West Coast Vanity Fair editor Krista Smith. (She published a similar book, London Uprising, in 2016 in the UK about Vogue journalist and BFC Emerging Talent Ambassador Sarah Mower.)
Using initial donations from LA-based British heiress Jordana Reuben Yechiel, jewelry designer Jacquie Aiche and 24 other founders in the worlds of real estate, finance and art, in 2022 she founded the non-profit organization Fashion Trust US with the aim of awarding prizes in quantities determined by the designer’s needs.
“The event is in LA because we feel like New York is saturated, and even since I wrote my book, there are more and more designers here,” she said, adding that next year’s gala could be held in another city, maybe in Texas.
Those with companies established in the US who have two to seven years of experience can apply for the St. John Knits Ready-to-Wear Award, which will include a cash prize and the opportunity to collaborate on a capsule collection with the Irvine, California, heritage-based brand.
There’s also a Jewelry Award, a Graduate Award and two Google Awards sponsored by the tech giant, each worth $25,000. There will also be awards for inclusivity and sustainability.
“We have an amazing advisory board and it’s not just LA…Laura, Bethanne Hardison, Proenza Schouler, Fernando Garcia…hopefully they’ll all come to LA to decide who the winners are,” said Fares, who brought Farfetch as a retail partner.
“We will give a significant amount of money, but it depends on the size of the business because you can have someone who has been in business for three years and has a turnover of $500,000 and you can have someone who has been in business for seven years and has a turnover of $200,000. I’ve always done that with all awards,” she said, adding that mentoring is also part of the deal.
“It’s been a big change for us as a brand, the mentorship, the exposure, the leadership of Tania, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani,” said LA-based designer Zaid Affas, who won the Fashion Trust Arabia Award 2021, referring to the Qatari royal families who chair and co-chair the event.
“The closing gala is like the Oscars, it’s a week of parties, dinners, celebrities,” added Affas, who was able to apply because he has an office in the Middle East.
“I want to be a part of it because I want to be able to offer a more inclusive perspective,” said France, who is of Pakistani descent, launched his brand in the U.S. when he was 25, and rose to fame on TV in “Queer Eye” and “Next in Fashion”. “I know Tania is white, but what I’ve seen in American fashion is a lot of white people making decisions so I want to say, ‘maybe think about this,’ maybe there are other groups that can contribute something different. ”
For Fares, one of the most satisfying moments of his career was at the 2020 awards in Qatar, when Yousef Akbar won in the evening wear category. “He didn’t have any financial resources and said in his speech that he was thinking about changing careers. Then FTA came along and now it’s booming, it’s in Harrods, it’s selling in a new store in the Middle East, a new store in Paris, a new store in Australia. As far as I’m concerned, that’s why I do it.”
The Council of Fashion Designers of America Award for Young Designers has been associated with Vogue magazine since its inception, but Fashion Trust US will not have any media partners, Fares said, although W magazine editor Sarah Moonves, Vogue contributor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson and ID magazine editor-in-chief Alastair McKimm is on the advisory board.
“For us, it’s all about being very inclusive, we all want to support each other and we want to work together,” said Fares, who actually partnered with the CFDA in 2021 to hand out five grants to black and brown designers, including Sergio Hudson , Sami Miro and Omar Salam.
Although the CFDA has faced criticism over the years for being so tightly tied to one publication, Fares was reluctant to criticize the organization or say it wants to compete.
“Everyone is doing their best, helping and supporting, kudos to you for your efforts. It’s easy to criticize in life, it takes two seconds. But it’s a lot of work [CFDA chief executive officer] Steve [Kolb] works. I’m also part of the British Fashion Council, so I hear that criticism firsthand, but I feel like everyone’s doing their best,” said Fares.
“What I appreciate about Tania is that she looks outside the norm of how things are done,” said Brown, who first partnered with Fares based on trust while at InStyle, only to later acquire parent company Meredith Corporation pass. “It should exist on its own and be independent anyway… I want everyone to be able to come,” she said of the outcome.
Prices are agreed.
“We’re bringing the community together and I want to do that in LA. By the way, whoever applies who doesn’t win is always welcome to apply again. Another thing is that we don’t ask them to do a collection, because I don’t believe that a young designer can afford it. And we fly them. They don’t pay for the flight,” she added.
“If we raise more financial support, I would like to award prizes for fashion accessories, shoes and bags, but the question is how much support we will get. We’re starting with this and we’ll see where we go.”