A Lot of Fashion Insiders Say Telfar Is the Brand to Know

Vanessa FriedmanVanessa FriedmanON THE RUNWAY

What does it take to get Anna Wintour, Condé Nast artistic director and editor of Vogue, to Brooklyn?

Ten up-and-coming designers and a drive for diversity in fashion — which is to say, the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund awards ceremony and dinner. This year, it extended its inclusivity from people to boroughs.

“I can’t believe it’s here,” said Lauren Santo Domingo, founder of Moda Operandi, resplendent in Calvin Klein feathers and discussing the evening’s choice of venue, Weylin B. Seymour’s, a.k.a. the old Williamsburgh Savings Bank. “I was in my car on the way to Spring Studios where it has been for years, and I finally looked at the invitation.”

As with the setting, however, so with the 10 nominees, which Diane von Furstenberg, chairwoman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, said were “the most diverse group ever,” representative of a broad swath of America, “the country they are from, or the country they have chosen to make their own.”

Before the winners were announced, Ms. Wintour introduced Maria Grazia Chiuri, the artistic director of Dior women’s wear, who provided a brief moment reflecting experience and encouragement to the new crop on the block.

Ms. Wintour quoted the designer (quoting Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) in her first collection and said, “I agree with you: We should all be feminists.” Then she added, “It is remarkable how you brought sexual politics into the business of running an international fashion house.”

Asked what advice she would give the next generation, Ms. Chiuri said that when she started studying fashion she never would have believed that she could end up atop a house like Dior, which previously had been run only by men. “Be brave, believe in yourself, do what you feel is right for you,” she said. And perhaps most important: “Make your own mistakes.”

The audience, which included Nicki Minaj and Teyana Taylor, applauded.

Then the envelope was opened. And the winner was Telfar, the one-look-fits-all “trend agnostic” brand started in 2005 by Telfar Clemens, a Liberian-American who attended the dinner with Selah Marley, granddaughter of Bob Marley. (They were dressed in coordinated, asymmetric looks — Ms. Marley in a burgundy stretch frock, Mr. Clemens in a black knit top and leather pants.) Mr. Clemens has been steadily coming into his own, and the award was an acknowledgment that many of the attitudes and aesthetics he has championed are now exerting a broader influence on the industry.

The runners-up were Ahlem Eyewear (diversity in product category!), founded by Ahlem Manai-Platt, and Chromat, the brand founded by Becca McCharen-Tran that is known for its big-tent attitude toward sizing and creative approach to melding clothes and technology. Chromat was also a finalist in 2015.

“This is not a trend,” said Ms. McCharen-Tran, clutching her golden egg-shape statuette and talking about inclusivity. “This is the way fashion is going.”

As for Mr. Clemens, who will receive $400,000 and mentorship advice (runners-up get $150,000 each), he smiled and held his egg carefully. “I’m taking this thing home to Queens,” he said.

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