Last night, the Council of Fashion Designers of America announced the recipients of its esteemed CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. The winner of this year's largest grant was Liberian-American designer Telfar Clemens, who took home $400,000 to put toward his unisex label, Telfar. The runners up were Chromat and Ahlem, who took home $150,000 each (no small feat for an emerging fashion brand).
Telfar has made a name for himself in New York challenging the fashion industry's often rigid norms. Just a few weeks ago, Clemens collaborated with White Castle (yes, the fast food establishment) for his latest capsule collection, "LeFrak," complete with dual logo-branded tees, hats, and hoodies. The collection was even put on sale at the restauran'ts Queens location—which Clemens frequented as a kid—and 100% of the proceeds of the sales from there went to the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Liberty and Justice fund, which aims to help get minors on Rikers Island out on bail.
Clemens's decision to make Telfar entirely unisex was a pioneering one; he launched his brand in 2005 back when he was still a teenager, long before gender nonconforming fashion was in vogue. As the CFDA themselves put it, his work provides a "wardrobe for the post-identity generation." His innovative and technology-driven approach to design has earned Telfar international recognition as well; just last summer, his work showed at the Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art.
The fact that the CFDA has recognized such a pioneering talent as Telfar sends an important message to emerging designers everywhere: that fashion belongs to those willing to disrupt the system and reimagine what it means to create clothing.