Half a year after Karl Lagerfeld died in Paris mid-fashion month, his industry is understandably still working to navigate life without his presence and figure out how to properly honor him. After a six-decade career with over half that time spent simultaneously at the helm of Chanel, Fendi, and his eponymous brand, the designer set himself apart from just any creative director to become a household name and veritable icon. His longtime labels organized a memorial in June that allowed the fashion world to pay tribute in the Grand Palais (where he routinely showed for Chanel), and with the chapter of saying goodbye closed, top industry figures have now been strategizing ways to honor his legacy moving forward. In news that wasn't surprising but certainly got people talking, rumor has it the Met will theme its annual fashion exhibition around Lagerfeld, but now the industry has a concrete update: LVMH will dedicate its Special Prize to the late designer.
The news comes just a week before the contest's sixth edition, and the new name will be in effect beginning when the conglomerate presents the sixth edition of its prizes on September 4. And it's a natural progression, as Lagerfeld always showed his support for the prize, acting as a judge and making the already prestigious award that much more exciting. Since 2014, designers under 40 have applied in the thousands to compete for the award, and after the contest narrows in shortlist and finalist phases, standout talents receive 300,000 and 150,000 euros (respectively for Grand and Special Prize winners) and a one-year mentorship with LVMH to get expert information on all aspects of running a fashion house. Grand prize winners like Grace Wales Bonner and Marine Serre have achieved international success with their unique visions, and even finalists have become some of the industry's most exciting names—think Brandon Maxwell, Cecilie Bahnsen, and Virgil Abloh. The Special Prize is actually the competition's equivalent to second place, but it equally foreshadows success in fashion, as winners like Shayne Oliver and Simon Porte Jacquemus have made indelible marks on the runway scene. Now, in addition to the existing acclaim and offerings, whoever wins the Special Prize will get to say they earned the award named for Karl Lagerfeld. That's a major accomplishment for any young designer, and a fitting way to keep the icon present after years of serving on the jury.
When this year's contest ends next week, eight finalists will be awaiting results: Kunihiko Morinaga of Anrealage, Bethany Williams, Emily Adams Bode, Hed Mayner, Kenneth Ize, Spencer Phipps, Stefan Cooke and Jake Burt of Stefan Cooke, and Thebe Magugu. The Grand Prize winner, as well as the inaugural designer to receive the Lagerfeld honor, will certainly have the world's attention as they gain status as top picks of elite jury members like Clare Waight Keller, Nicolas Ghesquière, Marc Jacobs, and Maria Grazia Chiuri. Three recent graduates will also take home awards, receiving 10,000 euros each as well as year-long placements at LVMH houses. Their recognition is additional proof that fashion keeps evolving as fast as ever, as well as the fact that Rihanna recently launched Fenty under LVMH—the musician and inclusive fashion and beauty entrepreneur is now officially part of an elite circle for these aspiring designers to look up to, and maybe she'll even join the jury one day. But no matter how quickly trends may change and how many new talents enter the public eye, Lagerfeld's immense legacy remains, now only even more visible through the Special Prize renaming.