Tommy Hilfiger has announced the winners of its annual Fashion Frontier Challenge, a global design and innovation program that highlights the work of emerging designers in the industry.
Designed to identify and promote ideas that create greater inclusivity in the fashion industry, the three-year program held its final virtual event on January 12-13. Six finalists presented their concepts to a judging panel, and two companies – Netherlands-based Lalaland.ai and Rwandan brand UZURI K&Y – were selected as winners, to share a $228,000 prize. The winners, selected from a pool of 430 startups from 22 countries, will also participate in a year-long mentorship program with experts from Tommy Hilfiger and INSEAD.
Lalaland.ai’s platform uses artificial intelligence to create ethnically diverse and different-sized virtual models for use by e-commerce businesses. Michael Musandu, co-founder and CEO of the group, described inclusivity as the core of Lalaland’s vision. “Being part of the Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Frontier Challenge has brought incredible insights and will elevate our AI solution to reach more people than we could have ever imagined,” he said, adding, “our team is eager to provide a welcoming online shopping experience, then no the consumer feels underrepresented.
UZURI K&Y, meanwhile, produces eco-friendly footwear from recycled car tires collected in sub-Saharan Africa. The brand employs local women and donates shoes to underserved young people in the area. Co-Founder and CEO Kevine Kagirimpundum said UZURI K&Y is “dedicated to making a real impact and inspiring today’s youth to create a cleaner future”.
“This opportunity provided mentorship, strategic advice and gave us a platform to share our dream of bringing sustainable footwear options from Africa to the global market,” she added.
Ideas were submitted to the Fashion Frontier Challenge board in January 2021, and jurors focused on supporting and amplifying the efforts of Black and diverse entrepreneurs during this cycle. For the first time, Tommy Hilfiger fans were also invited to participate in the first phase of the challenge and vote online.
Fans were encouraged to vote at the January event, and a third group received $17,000 to advance their idea. Voters chose Clothes to Good, a social enterprise focused on creating micro-business and job opportunities for people with disabilities in South Africa through textile recycling. “It’s humbling to know that others believe in our dream of truly making a difference for people with disabilities and their families,” said Tammy Greyling, Director of Operations and Occupational Therapist. “We feel blessed to be recognized by viewers of the Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Frontier Challenge, it’s an experience we will never forget.”
This year’s jurors included founder Tommy Hilfiger, CEO Martijn Hagman and executive vice president of sustainable business and innovation Esther Verburg, as well as actress and director Yara Shahidi, assistant professor at INSEAD and entrepreneur Adrian Johnson, Managing Director of Fashion for Good Katrin Ley, and Yvonne Bajela, founding and principal member of investment firm Impact X Capital.
“This stimulating challenge brought together passionate and hard-working people with new ideas on how to create a fashion future we can all expect,” Tommy Hilfiger said in a statement. “It was an impressive final event, and I’m proud to continue this journey with the entrepreneurs who showcased groundbreaking and impactful solutions that challenge the way we think, build, and create.”
The Fashion Frontier Challenge will begin accepting applications for its fourth cycle in March.
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