California Designers Named as Finalists for CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund
The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund announced its 2021 finalists on April 27, and Los Angeles–based designers were among those selected. House of Aama by Rebecca Henry and Akua Shabaka as well as designer Kenneth Nicholson were among the 10 finalists for this year’s award. Additional honorees included Batsheva Hay of Batsheva, Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta of Eckhaus Latta, Anifa Mvuemba of Hanifa, Jameel Mohammed of Khiry, LaQuan Smith, Abrima Erwiah of Studio One Eighty Nine, Edvin Thompson of Theophilio and Willy Chavarria.
In 2015, House of Aama was launched as Urban Nomad by the mother-daughter team of Henry and Shabaka. As Shabaka matured, the brand evolved into House of Aama, a luxurious approach to fashion that speaks to Americana rooted in the stories of the women’s African-American ancestors, particularly influences stemming from Louisiana Creole culture. The fashion house has laid its foundation as an American-heritage brand while continuing to expand its reach through luxurious romantic pieces such as those found in its Autumn/Winter 2017 Bloodroot collection and casual pieces within its 2020 Silhouettes Collectibles line, which featured T-shirts and hoodies.
“We are still in shock, honestly, about the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund announcement! Not because we did not feel we deserve this opportunity but because we have really been this little home-based, self-funded brand moving forward in the world propelled by sheer will and a passion to tell stories from the Black experience that are universally relevant. The CFDA grant is a form of validation that the fashion world is interested in our storytelling and our unique approach to Americana,” Henry and Shabaka explained. “The CFDA grant and the professional development and mentorship inherent in the program will allows us to critically improve and expand our business operations, improve our direct-to-consumer model and customer experience, explore wholesale and retail opportunities and attract and retain talented team members. This is a critical time for House of Aama as we expand and grow, and this CFDA grant and recognition could not have come at a better time.”
With Houston roots, Nicholson takes influence from his current home city of Los Angeles to blend his vision for reimagining vintage influences into modern pieces. Launched in 2016, the eponymous Kenneth Nicholson fashion house debuted with a focus on garment construction, movement and texture. As Nicholson continues his growth as a designer, he also brings into his work inspiration from popular culture, politics, historical events and his upbringing as observed in his Autumn/Winter 2020–21 collection named From Grandma’s Couch.
“Being one of the 10 finalist for the 2021 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund is monumental to me. It’s a huge honor and game changing for the brand,” Nicholson said. “It is something I always wanted to be apart of, long before I started my professional fashion career. Growing up, I used to watch the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund cycle every year, seeing designers I admire participate and witnessing how much their brands grew afterward. So to say this is huge for me would be an understatement. Some upcoming things for the brand are our new collection, which I am very excited about, as well as a new e-commerce platform that is being developed now that will be released in conjunction with the collection.”
For this 2021 edition of the awards, the selection process shifted to reflect the fund’s ability to afford support to 10 finalists with grants and a year of mentorship from industry veterans. This approach differs from the previous process, which saw a single top-award winner and two runners-up selected from a pool of finalists.
“After an incredibly challenging time for all of us in fashion, especially here in New York, we’re thrilled that this year we are able to support all of our finalists,” Anna Wintour, global editorial director of Vogue and chief content officer of the publishing house Condé Nast, said in a statement. “It’s not only a vote of confidence in their talents but in a brighter future for American fashion.”
Sponsored by Instagram, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Vogue, the 2021 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund selection committee included Wintour, designer Tom Ford—who is also chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Aurora James of Brother Vellies and the 15 Percent Pledge, Chioma Nnadi and Mark Holgate of Vogue, Eva Chen of Instagram, model and activist Paloma Elsesser, Roopal Patel of Saks Fifth Avenue, Sam Lobban of Nordstrom and the CFDA’s Steven Kolb.
“This year’s talented group of Fashion Fund finalists is facing an industry in the process of reinvention and transformation,” Ford said. “The program’s new format aims to help the designers better navigate and thrive in fashion’s future.”
*Article has been updated with a statement from House of Aama's Rebecca Henry and Akua Shabaka.