Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Teen Designer Vejas Kruszewski Sets Sights on Expansion after LVMH Prize

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Teen Designer Vejas Kruszewski Sets Sights on Expansion after LVMH Prize

Article excerpt

Teen phenom Vejas Kruszewski sets sights on expansion

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TORONTO - Self-taught phenom fashion designer Vejas Kruszewski is not the kind of artist prone to outbursts of glee.

Even after winning a prestigious fashion prize awarded by heavyweights including Karl Lagerfeld and Marc Jacobs, the low-key Canadian teen prefers to focus on the pragmatic issues at hand.

"It feels good. But it's over now so it's kind of back to work," Kruszewski said Monday from Paris, where he last week won the prize, which comes with a cheque for 150,000 euros (C$217,000) and a year-long mentorship.

"We have to meet with the mentor and put together a plan with how things are going to go forward and we're just going to think on the best possible trajectory to go in."

The 19-year-old had been in contention for the LVMH Prize, an award for emerging designers spearheaded by the luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Group, which includes fashion brands Louis Vuitton, Celine and Givenchy.

The award went to London-based designer Grace Wales Bonner, who claimed 300,000 euros (C$435,000) and a year-long mentorship from the LVMH group.

But the jury decided to hand Kruszewski -- who was the youngest designer ever to be in contention for the award -- a special prize in recognition of "a mature style and independent spirit."

His Toronto-based label, Vejas, has quickly grown from a personal passion to a fledgling global enterprise, and Kruszewski says he's eager to keep the momentum going.

"Our infrastructure is kind of lacking right now. We need a larger office space because we're outgrowing it; we'd really like to invest money into our production cycle because right now it just needs to be strengthened; people need to be paid on time, which just helps things go smoother," he said of the list of things he hopes the prize money will fund.

"We also kind of want to be putting money into developing things like footwear and leather goods, which in the long-term are what become the pillars of a healthy brand."

Kruszewski says he expects to develop footwear samples, and eventually launch production, in Italy. …

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