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How to win a fashion competition

How to win a fashion competition

Last week, we published an article about new talent fashion competitions (read more about that here). It’s an opportunity that’s hugely popular among young people, as it’s a way to get network, feedback, PR, and if you win; recognition, a prize, and perhaps also mentoring. The people taking home the prizes are the ones with the best collections, but what describes the best collections? Read on about how to win a fashion competition.

There is an immense amount of learning to be gained from participating in a fashion competition, and this is regardless of how far you are allowed. Most competitions have requirements, about what work is expected to be handed in, and often the requirements don’t differ majorly. Often there’s a brief, which should be the starting point for your inspiration, and then instructions as to how to present your work, e.g. 2-5 fashion illustrations, technical drawings, material chart, moodboard, a short description of the collection, and your CV. You can use the work later in your portfolio, which should in any case be updated regularly, and you should write on your CV that you partook in the competition. It says something about your drive, passion, professionalism, and ability to meet a deadline.

But, a part from learning a lot, let’s be honest: winning is better. You’re in this because you believe in your work, and you want people to notice it. There’s no shame in saying that. So who actually wins the fashion competitions, and what does it take? In all its essence, the winners are the ones with the strongest collections. If we try to decipher the word ‘strong’, it means being relevant, new/fresh, and impactful.
blank painting by Kusama

If we again try to decipher these adjectives, so we’re really sure, what we’re actually talking about, ‘relevant’ is about you, as an artist or designer, interpreting certain intuitions that will also make sense to an audience at this time (read more about that here). ‘New/fresh’ is linked to relevant, as it should not only make sense to your audience in terms of being ‘right on time’, but in the context of a fashion competition of the next generation, also be ‘the next thing’ or something that hasn’t been yet. ‘Impactful’ or powerful is something that leaves you with a very clear feeling – something that is 100%. A powerful collection doesn’t mean it has to be aggressive – it just means that whatever your theme is, you do it 100% e.g. 100% eclectic, 100% minimal, or 100% bright colours. But, and here it gets a little tricky to understand, 100% doesn’t mean that you need to have a collection that is just 100% of one thing. It can also be a balance of two or more components e.g. 100% impactful in balancing over-size and fitted, or 100% in juggling a romantic mood with a futuristic feel and bright colours.

Makes sense? This is quite fundamental to feel or understand, as it’s not only about how to make a strong fashion collection for a fashion competition, but how to make strong fashion collections in general. And, if you plan to be a fashion designer, this is pretty fundamental. Many designers will understand this intuitively, and work intuitively. But, if it can be explained, it can be learnt. And if it can be learnt, it can be taught. Hopefully you got it.

As you most likely know, a fashion collection is made of different elements (read more about that here). If you want to make strong work, think about it as using some of the elements with extreme focus, while letting others step in the background. If you want to focus on very rich textures in a wild variety of colours and prints, your silhouette should perhaps be quite simple. Or perhaps your silhouette should be the exact opposite; very strong, but then perhaps the amount of details on your garments should be very few.

It’s like cooking a chocolate cake with 10 different ingredients, where each must be measured in relation to the other. Unlike cooking, though, a fashion collection is more about focusing on the chocolate and eggs, and adding just a minimum of flour and sugar, rather than having equally much of everything. That’s how you make something that’s 100%, where an active choice has been made about what is the focus of the collection, and what isn’t. Look at Yayoi Kusama’s work, and how strong it is in playing with just a few elements of shape, colour, and repetition. There may be other elements such as composition, dimension etc., but you hardly notice them. That’s why it’s so impactful.

Kusama pumpkin

A better recipe for how to win a fashion competition is hard to give, as there is no formula in art and design created by people and for people. Every time is new, and it’s impossible to speculate too much in what the judges will like. The times I participated in a jury, there was always consensus among the judges about who wasn’t very interesting, but disagreements about who the winners should be. This is exactly because there is no formula. Fashion is about psychology and sociology, and we all have a different view on things, and what appeals to us at a given time. Therefore working with passion and dedication are always the better solutions, and then simply giving it a shot.

If you plan to take part in a competition and want to show us your work for feedback, please email us on

(All work is by Yayoi Kusama, cover image is artwork by The Fashion Crowd)

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