The winner of this year's CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund grand prize of $400,000 is Telfar, a brand established in 2005 by Liberian-American designer Telfar Clemens. Chromat and Ahlem Eyewear each took home a runner-up prize of $150,000 each; all winners will receive mentorship from the industry figure of their choice.
What sets Telfar apart from past winners, including Proenza Schouler, Rodarte, Altuzarra and Public School, is that the label doesn't specialize in menswear or womenswear — it's unisex.
The concept of gender as a spectrum has grown into a national dialogue in the past few years, giving rise to the birth of many unisex labels and a particularly controversial Vogue cover story. However, Clemens was at the forefront of the movement, launching his line — which he describes as "horizontal, democratic, universal" — when he was still a teenager 12 years ago.
His androgynous portfolio includes various artist collaborations and experimentation with emerging technology, which have made him well-known in the art world. According to Vogue, which describes Clemens' work as ideal for the "post-identity generation," the designer had his own retrospective last summer at the Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art.
Like Clemens, Chromat designer Becca McCharen-Tran utilizes technology to give her activewear-inspired garments a sharp edge. McCharen-Tran has also been widely praised for championing diversity on the runway; since she launched the label in 2010, she has consistently cast women of color and of all sizes, ages and abilities.
Ahlem Manai Platt, founder of Ahlem Eyewear, is a France-born designer now based in Venice Beach who fuses her Parisian roots with the laid-back vibes of her new California home. In just three years, the brand has found favor with celebrities like John Legend, Beyonce, Kate Moss and Reese Witherspoon.