Learn These Designers' Names Now — They're About To Be Your New Fashion Obsessions

Photo: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images.
The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund awards ceremony is always a big night for the fashion crowd to celebrate burgeoning design talents. It's also a handy cheat-sheet to the next great labels you'll be clamoring to add to your closet ASAP. And the ante was upped quite a bit this year: The top honor of the evening went to not one but three emerging designers: Jonathan Simkhai, Aurora James of Brother Vellies, and Rio Uribe of Gypsy Sport. You may already be familiar with these names thanks to months of buzz. If not, get to know this ultra-talented trifecta now.

The name you're most likely to recognize is Jonathan Simkhai. His list of high-profile fans already includes the likes of Gigi Hadid, Emma Roberts, and repeat-wearer Kendall Jenner, among many, many others. The designer launched his namesake brand in 2010; he then joined the inaugural CFDA {Fashion Incubator} program in 2012 and competed in the International Woolmark Prize — i.e. the real-life Project Runway — in 2014. "The Fashion Fund will be a huge help in developing the future collections, putting us ahead in production, as well as building our e-commerce business," Simkhai told Refinery29. "I'm really looking forward to the mentorship we will receive after this win, to help map out goals for our business over the next several years."

Fun morning checking out the new collection @bergdorfs

A photo posted by Jonathan Simkhai (@jonathansimkhai) on

Aurora James founded footwear brand Brother Vellies in 2013 in Brooklyn, shortly after moving to the East Coast from Los Angeles, running the business out of her studio-slash-home in Bed-Stuy (which we visited earlier this year). She's since opened a studio and a store in New York City. James travels frequently to Africa to source materials and visit the workshops in South Africa, Kenya, and Morocco, where her designs come to life. The name of the brand comes from a South African shoe style, velskoen (colloquially called "vellies"), which inspired the modern-day desert boot. With a huge emphasis on sustainability, Brother Vellies is currently a finalist for the CFDA + Lexus Fashion* Initiative, which highlights and supports brands with environmentally friendly practices.
Rio Uribe started Gypsy Sport in 2012, after a six-year stint at Nicolas Ghesquière-era Balenciaga. From the get-go, the brand never defined itself within the traditional categories of menswear or womenswear: “I just hoped that anybody would like it and want to wear it, and to this point, I still consider it to be a non-gender-specific brand,” Uribe told Yahoo Style earlier this year. So, the buzzy runway shows feature both male and female models dressed in Uribe's colorful, patterned designs. With this no-labels philosophy, Uribe prioritizes inclusivity: “No one is left out of the Gypsy Sport brand," he emphasized to Yahoo Style. "It includes everyone.”

#GypsySport family at the #CVFF CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund gala 💖🏆🍾

A photo posted by Gypsy Sport (@gypsysport) on

In addition to the Fund's first-ever three-way tie, the prizes have changed slightly — in a good way. In the past, the winner has gotten $300,000 in funding, while two runners-up receive $100,000 each, and all award recipients receive mentorships with top fashion industry figures. This year, all three winning designers are being awarded $300,000 to put toward their brands, plus mentorship, according to Vogue.

Other nominees this year included Scott Studenberg and John Targon of Baja East, Matt Baldwin of Baldwin, Brad Schmidt and Raul Arevalo of Cadet, Chris Gelinas of CG, Becca McCharen of Chromat, David Hart, and Thaddeus O’Neil. Making the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund short list leads to great things for up-and-comers in the industry — even for those who don't end up winning.

Last year's top prize went to designer Paul Andrew, whose vibrant designs (and even more gorgeous studio) are what shoe dreams are made of. His peers from the class of 2014 include other editor favorites like Ryan Roche, Edie Parker, and Tanya Taylor. Past Fashion Fund winners include Alexander Wang, Joseph Altuzarra, and the Proenza Schouler boys, so the latest trio of winners are certainly in good company.

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