Why Vejas’s LVMH prize win proves it’s time to start paying attention to Canadian design

The news that Vejas Kruszewski has won a special jury prize at the LVMH design competition seals it. It’s time for the world to wake up to Canadian design.

Kruszewski, who is 19 and works out of a tiny Spadina Ave studio, wins 150,000 Euros and a year’s worth of coaching. The grand prize of 300,000 Euros and a year of mentoring went to Grace Wales Bonner, a London-based menswear designer.

About 1,000 entries from around the world were whittled down to eight finalists. They were judged at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris by Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs, Nicolas Ghesquière, Phoebe Philo, Riccardo Tisci, Jonathan Anderson, and Kenzo creative directors Humberto Leon and Carol Lim; plus LVMH executives including Delphine Arnault, a talent scout at the luxury firm. We can’t even imagine how nerve-wracking that must have been.

But Kruszewski clearly has the confidence and determination to face the world’s greatest living designers. He is completely self-taught, since the rigour of design college didn’t have much appeal after years of Jesuit school in Montreal.

But the big takeaway here should be that this country isn’t lacking in talent. The LVMH competition is only three years old and yet two Canadians have walked away with prizes. Thomas Tait, a graduate of College Lasalle in Montreal, was declared the inaugural winner in 2014.

Add him to the list of Canadian success stories like DSquared’s Dean and Dan Caten, Erdem Moralioglu, Tanya Taylor, Steven Tai, Mikael D., SMYTHE, Greta Constantine and Jason Wu (yes, we are claiming him as Canadian for his years spent in Vancouver).

Then there’s Canadian brands selling around the world including Mackage, Want Les Essentials, Line Knitwear, Jenny Bird, Shan swimwear, Herschel Supply Company, Lululemon, Moose Knuckles and Canada Goose, now majority-owned by U.S.-based Bain Capital.

And Canadians hold top posts at some of the world’s biggest brands, including Somsack Sikhounmuong, head women’s designer at J. Crew.

So who else should you be paying attention to? Beaufille, Sid Neigum, Unttld, Daniel Christian Tang, Lauren Klassen, Malorie Urbanovitch, Hayley Elsaesser, Atelier Wonder and Kat Marks to name a few.