The Fashion Trust U.S., a nonprofit initiative that supports young design talent, hosted its first annual awards ceremony on Tuesday, March 21, 2023, at Goya Studios in Los Angeles. The event was attended by celebrities, fashion industry professionals, and friends of the organization, who braved the rainy weather to celebrate the achievements of the 15 designer finalists and the six award winners.
The awards ceremony was the culmination of a year-long process that involved an open call for applications, a rigorous selection by the FTUS advisory board, and a showcase of the finalists’ collections at the Hammer Museum earlier that day. The finalists represented four categories: ready-to-wear, accessories, jewelry, and graduate award. Each category had five finalists, except for the graduate award, which had only one.
The awards were presented by some of the most influential names in fashion and entertainment, such as Tracee Ellis Ross, Heidi Klum, Law Roach, Demi Moore, Ciara, Mike Amiri, Olivia Wilde, Stephanie Horton, and Aurora James. The winners received a cash prize of $50,000, as well as mentorship and guidance from the FTUS team and partners.
The Winners and Their Stories
The winners of the Fashion Trust U.S. awards were:
- Aisling Camps, who won the St. John Ready-to-Wear Award for her innovative knitwear designs that combine engineering and artistry. Camps, who left a career in engineering to pursue fashion, thanked her family and friends for their support and said she was honored to receive the award from St. John, a brand that she admired for its craftsmanship and heritage.
- L’ Enchanteur, a jewelry brand founded by twin sisters Soull and Dynasty Ogun, who won the Jewelry Award for their eclectic and expressive pieces that draw inspiration from their Nigerian and Caribbean roots, as well as mythology, spirituality, and pop culture. The sisters dedicated the award to their mother, who passed away two years ago and encouraged them to follow their dreams.
- Papa Oppong, who won the Graduate Award for his vibrant and colorful collection that celebrates his Ghanaian heritage and explores themes of identity, culture, and gender. Oppong, who graduated from Parsons School of Design in 2022, said he was grateful for the opportunity and the recognition, and hoped to inspire other young African designers to pursue their passion.
- Jacques Agbobly, who won the Inclusivity Award for his genderless and size-inclusive clothing line that aims to empower and celebrate diversity. Agbobly, who was born in Togo and moved to the U.S. at the age of 12, said he wanted to create a brand that reflects his own journey and challenges the norms of the fashion industry.
- Puppets and Puppets, a ready-to-wear brand founded by artist Carly Mark and designer Ayla Argentina, who won the Google Creativity Award for their whimsical and theatrical creations that blur the lines between art and fashion. Mark and Argentina, who met at the Rhode Island School of Design, said they were overwhelmed by the award and thanked Google for supporting their vision and creativity.
- Elena Velez, who won the Sustainability Award for her minimalist and futuristic designs that use recycled and reclaimed materials, such as military surplus, industrial waste, and vintage fabrics. Velez, who grew up in Wisconsin and studied at the London College of Fashion, said she was inspired by her family’s history of migration and resilience, and wanted to create a brand that is ethical and responsible.
Looking Ahead to the Next Edition
The Fashion Trust U.S. awards ceremony was not only a celebration of the winners, but also a showcase of the talent and diversity of the American fashion scene. The organization, which was founded by Tania Fares and Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and launched in the U.S. in partnership with Laura Brown, the editor-in-chief of InStyle magazine, aims to discover, fund, and nurture young designers and help them grow their businesses and brands.
The organization also announced that it will add accessories as a new category for the next edition of the awards, which will take place in 2024. The applications for the next edition will open in the fall of 2023, and the finalists will be announced in the spring of 2024. The organization hopes to attract more applicants and expand its reach and impact in the U.S. and beyond.