South African designer Lukhanyo Mdingi has won the AMIRI Prize, earning a $100,000 grant and a year-long mentorship from the accolade’s founder and AMIRI creative director, Mike Amiri.
Mdingi was one of nine finalists for this year’s prize, which was opened to designers from across the globe for the first time. The eight other finalists were Abdel El Tayeb of France; Dorian Rahimzadeh of Iran; Ekwerike Chukwuma of Nigeria; Grace Ling, Keith Herron and Maxwell Osborne of the U.S., and Li Gong and Luke Zhou of China.
“This year’s talent was exceptional, and it was difficult to select a frontrunner, but Lukhanyo’s vision and approach stood out to all of us,” Amiri said. “His recent collections have seen him fine tune a singular aesthetic and sensibility, but just as commendable is the purpose behind what he does — for his wider community and culture — and this resonates with serious brand potential.”
Mdingi launched his namesake fashion brand in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2015, with the goal of championing the work of local artisans in the city. His work oftentimes highlights vivid color stories and sophisticated fabrications; and with each season, he carefully builds upon his wardrobe of confident statement pieces. Most recently, for his Spring 2023 collection, which comprises both menswear and womenswear, Mdingi drew inspiration from Burkina Faso’s street style.
Amiri established the AMIRI Prize in 2021 to aid young designers with unconventional trajectories in establishing their brands. Lou Badger, from Philadelphia, took home the inaugural trophy in 2021, before the award took a hiatus in 2022. Mdingi was selected as the 2023 winner by an esteemed panel that included Kidsuper’s Colm Dillane, editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, image architect Law Roach, stylist Lucia Liu, creative director June Ambrose, GQ China‘s Rocco Liu, designer Salehe Bembury, A-COLD-WALL*’s Samuel Ross and GQ‘s global editorial director Will Welch.
Following Mdingi’s win, Hypebeast sat down with the designer to discuss how he plans to use the AMIRI Prize’s grant and mentorship to reach his goals. Read what he had to share below.
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You’re the second-ever winner of the AMIRI Prize, and your work has been chosen by some of fashion’s most influential figures. What are you feeling in this moment?
An extreme sense of gratitude, a sentiment and feeling that resonates with all those that are part of the Lukhanyo Mdingi label and close community at large.
How will you use the $100,000 to grow your brand?
The intention is to steadily build our direct-to-consumer. We believe that the contribution of the fund will enable us to do this considerately and impactfully.
How do you hope to benefit from the Prize’s year-long mentorship with Mike Amiri?
The spirit of collaboration and human ingenuity is at the essence of the Lukhanyo Mdingi label. For us, it’s about respectfully establishing networks and building a community of connections within the business of fashion.
In a quote to the AMIRI Prize organization, you said that you believe in “the sentiment of community, collaboration and culture.” How do these pillars inform your namesake brand’s identity?
I believe that this is a practice that is validated within the intentional work done within the LM Label. Those that are privy to our trajectory and point-of-view, it’s clear that the foundation of each project is rooted by purpose and the spirit of human ingenuity and collaboration.
Mike Amiri established the AMIRI Prize to help designers whose journeys reflect his own unconventional trajectory. How has your unique path informed your growth in the often-inaccessible fashion industry?
Truthfully, I think that we’re all more alike than different and I believe that the experienced challenges remain relative based on our environments and circumstances, but what’s inevitable are “challenges.”
The trajectory hasn’t been easy, for so many of us trying to make our mark within this industry; I feel what has kept us grounded is through the commitment and belief of the bigger picture of our point-of-view.
You established your brand eight years ago, and today, you’re holding the AMIRI Prize trophy. Looking back at your beginnings in fashion, what advice would you offer your younger self?
Don’t ever forget to be rooted and grounded to the cause, “I press toward the mark, for a prize of a high calling.”