What Fashion's Power Players Look for in Young Talent

Jessica Schiffer
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Pratt Institute, located in Brooklyn, New York, is one of the most prestigious art colleges in the world, and it has been especially kind to fashion. Having launched the first fashion program in the United States, Pratt is to thank for the myriad fashion schools and programs that have sprung up since. So it’s no surprise that the school’s industry connections run deep, a fact that was made very clear at their annual fashion design jury review panel this past week.

Spotlighting select students’ senior thesis collections, the event welcomed major industry players like the critic Lynn Yaeger, designer Adam Selman, editor in chief of Interview Keith Pollock, and about 15 others (this editor included) to weigh in on the students’ final work. Any fashion publication worth their salt—from Vogue to W to Harper’s Bazaar—had a member from their team on hand, making it an incredible opportunity for the young talent to receive feedback from the crème de la crème of fashion while also making vital connections.

Thrust into this mix, I made it my duty to find out exactly what it is these head honchos are looking for in up-and-coming designers. Unsurprisingly, the judgments were fairly subjective and thus diverse—it’s nearly impossible to shake personal preferences in a situation like this. I couldn’t help but gravitate to those collections that were more minimalistic, and more important, wearable, but I also appreciated the funkier, avant-garde offerings. However, if you compared my notes to, say, Yaeger’s, the differences would likely be stark, and that’s a good thing—fashion, after all, is created with different outcomes in mind. Some designers honor what’s commercial while others privilege artfulness over everything.

Nevertheless, we were given certain universal parameters for our review, which I’ve outlined in a printable checklist below. We all agreed that the best collections checked off most, if not all, of these boxes, so consider it your one-stop-shop for perfecting your own designs, or simply sniffing out top quality designers-on-the-rise.

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