ANDAM, prix de la mode en France, Nathalie Dufour, Francesca Bellettini de Saint Laurent

France's fashion future

ANDAM – the fashion awards par excellence

France’s ANDAM fashion awards, given out each spring, help young talent to thrive—and to shine on the runway during Paris Fashion Week. It can make all the difference between success and failure, as K found out.

ANDAM, prix de la mode en France, Nathalie Dufour, Francesca Bellettini de Saint Laurent

It's with a fresh new ANDAM award in hand that the fashion designer Johanna Senyk has prepared her third Paris runway show for her young brand Wanda Nylon – streetwear inspired by rainwear. In addition to the prestige the prize confers, it also brings with it 250,000 euros and valuable mentoring from some of the top names in the business. That can make all the difference in a field that’s increasingly difficult for independent designers to survive.

ANDAM (National Association for the Development of the Fashion Arts) was created in 1989 by Nathalie Dufour under the initiative of the Ministry of Culture, with Pierre Bergé as president. She has since seen the award grow in stature while promoting outstanding creators such as Martin Margiela, Anthony Vaccarello (now creative director of Saint Laurent), Viktor and Rolf, and Iris Van Herpen. She says candidates are selected from around the world based not only on their creativity but also their business acumen: their approach to turnover, sales points, development strategy and the like.

This year’s jury consisted of 25 industry leaders, from models to media heads to fashion moguls. It boasted Vogue France editor-in-chief Emmanuelle Alt; Imran Amed of The Business of Fashion, Pamela Golbin from the Musée des Arts Décoratifs; actress-model Aymeline Valade and executives from a number of luxury organisations including Kering.

Empowering creativity is a must and making it become a business constitutes a success.

While there are similar awards in other countries, France has an important difference, says Dufour: “We are lucky to have luxury groups as part of ANDAM, which means the jury and partners are of a level that cannot be equalled elsewhere.”

Excellent vintage

Dufour says that it was an “exceptional year” for the quality of the nominees, giving the jury a tough choice to make. Francesca Bellettini, CEO of Saint Laurent and jury member, agrees: “The finalists were of a great calibre, in all three different categories. What made the winners emerge was their passion, creativity and also business sense.”

Other factors helped to make a difference. One was a connection to France, since the award encourages designers to set up or keep their businesses in this country. Personality is important, too, says Dufour. “There is an oral part, where you present your next collection before the jury. Enthusiasm and charisma play a role.”

ANDAM, prix de la mode en France, Nathalie Dufour, Francesca Bellettini de Saint Laurent

She notes that Johanna Senyk is a perfect example of this. “She’s 400 per cent invested in her story—with a personality that’s dynamic, enthusiastic, positive.”

In addition to the Grand Prix, ANDAM gives out two other awards. This year the First Collections Award, worth 100,000 euros, went to Atlein, whose designer, Antonin Tron, worked at the Balenciaga maison under Nicolas Ghesquière (and still freelances for the brand).

Another jury member says he first saw Tron’s work online last March, following Atlein’s debut presentation. “I was drawn by the images, but didn’t make the connection, so my admiration for his work was completely objective.” A few months later, when Tron showed his work to the ANDAM jury, he recalls, “the real thing was even more beautiful than the images.”

ANDAM, prix de la mode en France, Nathalie Dufour, Francesca Bellettini de Saint Laurent

Cash for creativity

Tron, whose debut collection featured covetable jersey separates that were both urban and sporty, calls ANDAM an “enormous boost.” He explains, “The award allowed us to create a new collection and produce the first one… It’s complicated for a young company to maintain the cash flow required to launch a brand today, and it’s difficult to access financing.”

Created only two years ago, with a purse of 40,000 euros, the Accessories award went to Emmanuel Tomasini, French-Italian maker of luxurious haute maroquinerie (fine leather).

Dufour dreams of increasing the prize sums in the future, to ensure there will always be a place for new talent. Bellettini concurs: “In the world of luxury, empowering creativity is a must and making it become a business constitutes a success.”