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Our 3 Favorite Finalists for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund 2022

The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) has announced the finalists of its 2022 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. The fund was established post 9/11 to help emerging designers and cultivate the next generation of American fashion talent. All finalists will receive funding and mentorship, a continuation of the 2021 rule changes after emerging designers were greatly affected during the pandemic.

While there are 10 in total, we’ve picked our top three favorite to highlight. It might strike some as a bit cheeky to have favorites in a list of talent approved by Anna Wintour. But we prioritize materials, fabrication and talent that is aligned with the value of respecting our planet. So without further ado…

Jacques Agbobly, BLACK BOY KNITS

Jaques Agbobly and two of his knitwear pieces of black boy knits

Jacques Agbobly remembers how growing up in Togo, they often stayed at their grandmother’s home. Their grandmother rented out part of her home to seamstresses in order to afford rent. Jacques says, “As a young queer child, I often felt isolated, and spent most of my time nestled under the cutting tables watching in awe as they turned brightly colored-printed textiles into unique custom-made pieces for each client.”

This experience is partly what led them to major in fashion design at Parson’s where a professor encouraged him to launch his own label –even helping organize a GoFundMe.

Black Boy Knits (BBK) is an independent design studio which emphasizes black, queer and immigrant naratives, while highlighting its contributions on a global perspective. As a design studio, BBK centers on creating unique pieces on a made-to-order basis.

BBK’s made-to-order practice eliminates the possibility of excess in production. Products are made in-house on a hand-operated knitting machine using natural fibers that are biodegradable and eco-friendly. Hoping to work directly with local wool suppliers to guarantee an ethical supply chain, BBK prioritizes custom and durable products while consuming less energy, wasting less resources and creating less waste.

Elena Velez, ELENA VELEZ

Elena Velez with models in fall 22 runway collection

Wisconsin born, Brooklyn based Elena Velez, with design cred from Parsons and Central Saint Martins, is very busy these days deconstructing the outdated, massively destructive model known as fashion with a capital F. Sustainability and co-design are the ethos, democratizing creative capital and empowering underserved artistic communities is the air this compelling human breathes. She is hoping to open a small-scale atelier for artisans, welders, designers and blacksmiths all working to upend the industry, where sustainability, transparency and conscientious making undergird the structure. Using regenerated fabrics and scrap metals, they look to create for bodies expressing a “fierce romance” and “aggressive femininity”.

Conley Averett, JUDY TURNER

Conley Averett center with models in Judy Turner Collection

After a stint at a correctional wilderness camp, which led to a “second chance” at a Tennessee boarding school, Conley Averett learned to knit from a local lady who “shaped my aesthetic and interest in craft and community…she planted that seed.” The seed was further watered at the Parsons School for Design and during the lockdown, this led to hand dying yarns in the bathtub. Next steps, handknitted or crocheted, archived yarns or every bit of leftover fabric found in his apartment, Conley Averett, made stuff. Cushy balaclavas, classic pullovers, cashmere-silk-wool blended sweatpants, crocheted trousers. A cross between homespun and classic, allowing any “mistakes” to lead to new possibilities, the designer produces locally – in our favorite part of Brooklyn, Bay Ridge –with a group of Euro-centric Soviet born knitters with mad skills. The results are a brand that gets more complex and outré with each collection. With warped patterning and unexpected color combos Averett strikes the perfect balance of quirky and chic. (Kind of like the brand name –which is a nod to Judy Garland & Lana Turner)

–KL Dunn + Katya Moorman

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