The annual fashion contest launched by millennial investor Wendy Yu in 2020 has announced this year’s recipients at Digital Shanghai Fashion Week. The Yu Prize scouts and incubates the most prominent homegrown talents in China and with growing interest in the country’s emerging designer scene, it’s become a barometer of local talent.
The 2022 edition has launched two additional awards in partnership: Yu Prize Li-Ning Grand Award and Yu Prize Rising Voices Award — in collaboration with UGG. Shenzhen-based winners Ponder.er, founded by creative duo Alex Po and Dereck Cheng, won the Grand Award and will be taking home a one million RMB cash prize, retailing at Harrods, showcase their collection at Sphere Showroom in Paris, receive mentoring from OTB Group, on top of developing a capsule collaboration with Li-Ning to be launched in-store and online later this year.
The Rising Voices Award went to the designer who could reimagine two classic UGG styles, and was claimed by Yuchen Han founder of high-end fashion label AlienAnt. The designer will benefit from a collaboration with UGG, receive mentorship from OTB Group, as well 100,000 RMB financial support.
The Yu Prize Creative Impact Award winners include Louis Shengtao Chen, Private Policy, Ruohan, Victor Wong, and Yirantian. The creatives will have the opportunity to obtain a mentorship with OTB Group, collaborate with beauty label YUMEE, and a cash prize of 50,000 RMB.
The hotly anticipated Yu Prize Gala has been postponed indefinitely due to the ongoing pandemic sweeping through Shanghai. Still, the award itself managed to attract an extensive portfolio of partners and resources. Flo Xu, founder of the sustainable fashion consultancy Project Flow, believes that from a branding perspective, the challenge is very relevant for designers. “It has a solid reputation in the fashion industry, the jury panel is really good, and Wendy Yu can offer great commercial partnerships.”
However, she also pointed out that those incentives would be even more valuable to even newer talents. “They tend to choose established names compared to Woolmark where you can always spot new faces,” Xu adds. To apply for the Yu Prize, designers are required to have presented at least two collections, and show evidence of a successful commercial record with retailers. This year’s line-up, Private Policy and Yirantian have already received many acknowledgments and are distributed by many stockists worldwide so they are more advanced end of that spectrum.
Given the great local and global exposure of the contest, Yu Prize could shine the spotlight on lesser-known designers — especially as international buyers still can’t visit the country. This is where the partnership with global retailer Harrods comes in. But it’s not a one-sided for the 173-year-old: aligning with emerging talents helps the prestigious London-based name tap into the rising guochao trend and rejuvenate its image in China.
Ultimately, the Yu Prize is one way for up-and-coming brands to climb up the ladder and expand their global awareness. As the competition further cements its reputation and breeds new faces, perhaps one day it could be regarded as China’s Woolmark Prize.