H&M’s Design Award: The New York Contingent

According to Ann-Sofie Johansson and Margareta van den Bosch, (Head of Design/New Development, and Creative Advisor at H&M respectively), “Our ambition is to bring up the most promising talents in fashion and give them a springboard in their careers.” The grand prize: €50,000, in addition to an opportunity to show their graduation collection at Stockholm Fashion Week later this month. “The winner will also get to develop key pieces from their collection to be sold in select H&M stores,” Johansson shared. Now in its fourth year, the competition is stiffer than ever, and for the first time, two of the final eight contenders are from US institutions–or institution, singular: Parsons School of Design.

Andrea Jiapei Li earned her MFA from Parsons and presented a collection of soft architecture in pastel and tertiary tones. Standouts include a berry-colored knotted halter top of sorts constructed from bonded mesh and neoprene, paired with wide leg trousers in ivory, their floor-grazing hems stitched with self affirmations such as “I am NOT what I am.” Jiapei-Li explains that she’s most interested in exploring textiles and silhouettes that she may not like and turning them into things she, and hopefully her customers, learn to treasure.

There’s also menswear designer from Hong Kong, Ximon Lee. The Parsons alum completed his undergraduate degree in May and had the added task of simultaneously submitting his designs for the Design Award competition. “It wasn’t easy, and I actually submitted mock ups of my designs, but one of my strong points is working up until the very last minute,” he says. Lee, whose first name is pronounced Simon, was inspired by the documentary Children of Leningradsky and traveled to Moscow to see how orphan children live. “Everything is sandwiched,” he shares, commenting on the layering process he used to create his bonded denim and vinyl-based garments. “I allow the fabrication to dictate the silhouette, how the layers work together, and then I drape,” he says, pointing to a Cristobal Balenciaga cocoon shaped jacket. Languid shorts and oversize denim separates are finished with copper bolts and handles. Other textiles mimic garbage can liners, with silhouettes in the shape of actual sandwich board signage, their flaps freely hanging off the wearer’s body. Lee’s narrative, for all it’s homeless chicness à la early Galliano, is subtly printed on various collars and hems. When mixed and matched, the wearer can create his own story.

In addition to Johansson and van den Bosch, the competition judging panel includes Luella Bartley, Lily Allen, Angelo Flaccavento, Justin O’Shea, Lucinda Chambers, Paula Goldstein di Principe, and Tommy Ton. There is also public voting, known as the “People’s Prize,” where the most voted designer wins an internship at a renowned fashion studio.