19-year-old designer Vejas Kruszewski just won special LVMH 2016 fashion prize. This young self-taught Canadian launched his eponymous label after graduating high-school and is probably fashion’s next big thing. Antidote met him.
“I think who should win and who I admire a lot is Grace Wales Bonner. Her vision is so concise and so clear and so different from everything else that is out there right now. I want her to win, just to see how she would expand her world”. This was the answer designer Vejas Kruszewski gave when I first spoke with him in May about making it into the final round of this year’s LVMH Prize.
Clearly his skills as a designer extend to being able to spot real talent in his peers as Bonner won the top prize this week. The Central Saint Martins graduate became the third recipient of the annual LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers, which brings with it 300,000 euros in seed money and a year long mentorship from LVMH.
But before her name was announced Delphine Arnault said the jury had a hard time choosing just one winner and awarded Kruszewski a special prize. The bespectacled 19 year old Canadian born autodidact designer pocketed 150,000 euros and his own year long mentorship with LVMH. The reserved Vejas looked to be in a state of shock at the win when he quietly said a quick thank you before swiftly stepping off the awards stage.
Vejas spring-summer 2016 collection
It has been quite a whirlwind year for the designer, who taught himself to sew via Japanese sewing magazines he would buy while still in high school. A summer working at a mom and pop “cut and sew” factory over one summer, where he help put together nurses uniforms and ready-to-wear pieces form a Canadian brand called Marie Saint Pierre and some YouTube sewing tutorials, also helped him hone his skills. But still Vejas admitted that the first piece he ever sold, a boxy t-shirt built from a plaid felted wool, “was really ugly”.
“The brand kind of started as and experiment. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” said the designer who has seen his accounts triple in the wake of his making the final cut for the LVMH Prize.
So what is it about the Vejas brand that is getting the fashion world so hot and bothered? His is a sophisticated street style approach to dressing. An esthetic that plays up the blurring of gender lines and twists the traditional uses of textiles so that they are implemented in unexpected ways. Ditto the manner in which the garments are actually constructed. The pieces all look to have transposed fixtures and fittings so that the final result is just strange enough to look cool. “There is never any inspiration for a season or a reference point really,” explained Kruszewski. “But I guess the style is kind of clothing for a not so distant future. I try to make it feel familiar and still alien a bit, but also very functional”.
Vejas spring-summer 2016 collection
“We really wanted to encourage him,” said Louis Vuitton’s artistic director Nicolas Ghesquière who was part of the LVMH Prize jury. “He has a vision that is already very strong. It’s extraordinary to see someone so young, so determine and organized. He is very serious about this and you get the feeling that he is going to go places.”
The oldest of three, Vejas’s parents (his mother is a clinical ethicists and his father is a techie who works on projects dealing virtual reality) first met in Paris when they were both in France finishing up their degrees.
“Mom was very interested in fashion and she would buy Dries Van Noten pieces from the early 90s and Prada,” said Kruszewski. “They both had they really lucrative scholarships while they were in school. And they ended up buy all these clothes. So they were just always around in the house when I was growing up. What I really found so fascinating about clothes was seeing a piece and then taking it apart and try and figure out how it was made.”
Vejas fall-winter 2015 collection
But launching a fashion label today is no small task. Many in the industry think it’s a smart move to train, learn and make mistakes while working for someone else before even considering the idea of starting a signature label. And Vejas agrees that he was perhaps a bit naïve when he decided to go it alone. “I have ruined a lot of relationships and I still owe a ton of money. I feel like I have made a lot of mistakes, particularly when business becomes a bit too personal. It was kind of a stupid decision in hindsight. Although I am fine now, for the most part.”
With 150,000 euros in his pocket and the guiding hand of LVMH helping to elevate his oeuvre it looks as if Vejas is more then just fine. He is well on his way to becoming fashion’s next big thing.
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