Entertainment

Canadian teen Vejas Kruszewski up for fashion's prestigious LVMH Prize

Toronto-based Vejas Kruszewski, who designs meld 'street style and glam fashion' while also tapping into the notion of gender fluidity, is shortlisted for this year's LVMH Prize honouring young designers. The winner will be announced June 16 in Paris.

19-year-old a finalist for fledgling, $431K prize highlighting young designers

19 year-old Canadian designer Vejas Kruszewski takes home the 'special award' for fashion, granted by the LVMH luxury goods group, today in Paris. He was one of eight finalists in contention for the lucrative prize, and although he didn't win the top award, he still receives more than $200,000 and a year-long mentorship. (Samuel Francis Houston/Canadian Press)

It's quite the ascent: 19 year-old Canadian designer Vejas Kruszewski has gone from relative obscurity in the fashion world to having Karl Lagerfeld assess his designs.

The pony-tailed, sunglass-wearing fashion icon is one of several famous judges who'll decide if Kruszewski will be crowned the young designer winner of the LVMH Prize, set to be awarded Thursday in Paris at the Louis Vuitton Foundation building.

Created two years ago by luxury goods conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, the prize was specifically established to give props to virtually unknown designers. It is only open to those under 40, who may have as few as two ready-to-wear collections under their young belts.

'A game-changer'

Originally from Montreal, Toronto-based Kruszewski has had no formal fashion training and, at 19, is so far the youngest finalist for the fledgling award — two factors in his favour or that work against him, depending on your point of view.

"It's a game-changer," Noreen Flanagan, editor-in-chief of Elle Canada magazine, said of the lucrative prize.

Kruszewski has 'tapped into the gender fluidity or blurring that is very much part of the zeitgeist.'- Noreen Flanagan, Elle Canada

Aside from coverage by international press, winning the award opens doors to potential investors as well as influential supporters for a young designer, she added.

Having noted Kruszewski's design prowess, Flanagan is showcasing him in Elle Canada's upcoming feature on Canadian designers to watch feature, to appear in the August issue. Kruszewski is a "self-taught wunderkind," she told CBC News.

"Street style melded with glam fashion has been a defining influence for a few seasons and it's only gaining in terms of being an influential and enduring trend in fashion. Vejas has a preternatural affinity for handling this fashion paradox. He's also tapped into the gender fluidity or blurring that is very much part of the zeitgeist."​

Vejas Kruszewski's designs, shown on the model second from left, will be featured in Elle Canada's upcoming feature on Canadian designers to watch, set for the August issue. (Juliana Schiavinatto/Marie Rainville/ELLE Canada)

His distinct line carries clout because of its rough and raw appeal: denim riddled with grommets and backpacks with next-level scrunching. 

The designer says he took early inspiration from the pattern inserts in Japanese sewing magazines. That led to re-envisioning basic sportswear garments — such as sweatshirts — so they gather, nip and/or balloon in unconventional ways. 

$431K and valuable guidance

A model sports a look from the spring-summer 2016 collection from Vejas. (June Canedo/Canadian Press)

Young designers winning the LVMH Prize get a grant of €300,000 (or about $431,000 Cdn) and business mentorship from arguably the most well-established luxury fashion behemoth on the planet.

LVMH owns labels such as Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Fendi, TAG Heuer, De Beers and Christian Dior perfumes. That's the kind of powerhouse giving each winner guidance on intellectual property, marketing, production, distribution and more.

In other words, a win could vault Kruszewski into a completely different stratosphere of fashion. 

Kruszewski still makes most of his own samples, though that's likely to change if his name is called on Thursday. 

And if he does win, he would stand in good company: fellow Canadian Thomas Tait, now London-based, captured the inaugural edition of the prize in 2014.

About the Author

Jelena Adzic

Reporter

Jelena Adzic is a reporter, writer and radio columnist with the CBC Arts Unit. Her eyes light up at the mention of design, visual art and architecture.

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