Today may be the day the big, established names – Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein – come out to play in New York, but in Paris it’s all about the new ones. The shortlist for the LVMH Young Designer’s Prize, which was launched last November by Delphine Arnault, has just been unveiled, creating much buzz among the fashion crowd.

There are 30 names on it, including most of the hot labels in New York and London, many of which are often finalists for the Vogue Fashion fund competitions in both cities: Suno, Hood by Air and Creatures of the Wind from the former, and Simone Rocha, Thomas Tait (who won the Dorchester Prize in 2010) and Meadham Kirchhoff from the latter, to name a few. Also Stella Jean, the young Italian designer who got her big break from Armani last season.

And I wonder: is the competition greater among the baby brands vying for the awards, or among the mega brands bestowing them? I tend to think the latter. I saw her first! No, I did! And so on.

The LVMH prize may be the most recent entrant in the field, but it is also, not surprisingly, the biggest: €300,000 and a year of “coaching” from an LVMH executive. Who wouldn’t want that?

All of which means, it seems to me, three things:

1) Brands are increasingly thinking of their future, trying to identify and create relationships with young designers in case they need them to become big designers. And they have decided the best way to do this is to establish mentor/mentee relationships. That’s the new battlefield (though everyone is pretending it’s all a friendly game of tag). After all, if, say, Simone Rocha won, and if, say, she then spent a year being helped by the folks at LVMH, would she not feel a certain depth of gratitude and kinship with the conglomerate?

2) The new-generation leadership at LVMH (chairman Bernard Arnault’s children: Delphine, deputy managing director of Louis Vuitton and Antoine, CEO of Berluti and chairman at Loro Piana) is proceeding with a strategy to make the company seem a friendlier, more nurturing place; at least to the new generation of designers and consumers. The biggest luxury group in the world is often depicted as predatory and calculating (see its recent tussles with Hermès).

3) For scholars of LVMH, Delphine has specifically identified “designers” and creative leadership as her area. Indeed, when I was talking to Jonathan Anderson, the YBD who is now creative director of Loewe, he told me it had been Delphine who really targeted and wooed him.

And you thought it was just a prize. Pshaw.

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