Fashion Talent Wanted: Enkamania Searching for the Next Donna
By: Eri Kim
Photo below: Enkamania poster
Photo courtesy of Enkamania
NEW YORK, Dec 20, 2001/ --- The sad truth about most design competitions is that someone puts
up a lot of money to finance a runway collection for a group of promising designers, one of
whom wins, collects the prize money, and then all but disappears from the fashion scene.
That's what prompted Enrico Freidhof, Managing Director of Sales and Marketing of German-based
viscose yarn manufacturer Enka, to start Enkamania, a design-scouting/brand awareness
raising project that has sparked the interest of some of fashion's biggest names.
"It's a different, complicated but intelligent story," says Friedhof.
A key to that story is experience, something that Enka, as the world's leading viscose
manufacturer, greatly values. "We don't want someone fresh out of school," Freidhof explains.
"We ask for a minimum of two to three years of work experience, someone who has worked in the
industry, who can deliver and is professional."
The process starts when applicants from all over the world submit personal information as well
as pictures of their work to www.enkamania.com (or, for the technologically challenged, by
mail to the company's Milan office). By mid-December the application count is 3,500; of
those, 20 will be pre-selected.
After that it's up to the jury, chaired by Italian Vogue Editor-in-Chief Franca Sozzani
and including designers Jean-Paul Gaultier, Donna Karan, Yohji Yamamoto, photographer Peter
Lindbergh and model/actress Milla Jovovich as well as retailers.
The jury will whittle the field further and select five finalists, to be announced during
Milan Fashion Week in February. The finalist will get to present their collections using
Enka fabrics at the September Milan Collections in 2002.
When it comes to putting together their collections, the finalists will meet with high-end
textile makers who'll create the fabric they desire - a dream for any small designer -
as well as meet with retailers from Barneys in Tokyo, London's Harvey Nichols and 10 Corso
Como in Milan, to name a few.
Since, as members of the jury, the buyers took an active part in selecting the finalists,
they are more than likely to place orders, Freidhof says. Based on the collections, a final
winner will be chosen and awarded a European campaign for Spring 2003 starring Milla Jovovich
and shot by Peter Lindbergh.
"A competition like this is the easiest way for brand promotion," Freidhof says, "and certain
automobile and champagne makers are already doing it - but it's not as easy as just giving
money. Yes, we do have a budget and Milla for instance will be paid for being in the
campaign," Freidhof concedes. But, "mostly it's a service for a young designer. And as a
company, we wanted to show that we understand [the fashion industry] from beginning to end
by overseeing the launch of a line. It's the only way it makes sense."
"When you give the possibility [to a new designer] to have their own show, thousands of
applications will arrive. But it is important to bring different aspects together," Franca
Sozzani points out. "A piece of clothing can be very beautiful but out of touch with reality."
So what might the judges be looking for? "At this point, we've already seen everything,"
Sozzoni says. "What I'll be looking for something personal - you need to keep the possibility
of someone developing their personal style and point of view."
"We'd like to add one more designer to the Gucci's and Donna Karans of the world," says
Freidhof, projecting great hopes for Enkamania. Sozzoni is equally a champion of the project,
showing a rare streak of compassion in the fashion world: "In this specific moment nobody
wants to engage in young people, but it's important to give them a chance."