LONDON – Ponder.er, the Hong Kong-based gender-inclusive label founded by Derek Cheng and Alex Po, has been named the winner of this year’s Yu Prize top honor, the Li-Ning Grand Award.The duo beat nine other contestants, who were judged based on the two looks each created for the final, to walk away with a one million renminbi, or $149,000, cash prize, plus a collaboration opportunity with Li-Ning, a slot to showcase at the Sphere showroom in Paris for two seasons, a 12-month mentorship program with OTB Group, retailing at Harrods and promotional support on China’s social commerce platform Xiaohongshu.
In an interview with WWD, the duo said they would invest the prize money in e-commerce, as well as expand into international markets, especially Europe.
“Our first collection was launched in January 2020 during Paris fashion week, right before COVID-19 hit. With traveling limitations and cancellations we haven’t been able to showcase our collection to the international market physically,” Po said.
Cheng added that the brand, in the near term, is “seeking a sustainable collaboration in using deadstock fabrics from factories or brands to do hand-crochet pieces.”
The two first met and later became roommates when studying fashion design at London’s Central Saint Martins. Po later obtained a master’s degree from the Royal College of Art, specializing in men’s knitwear. The two launched Ponder.er in 2019 with the intention of challenging gender stereotypes and raising questions against social norms.
Two looks from Ponder.er’s fall 2022 collection.
Ye Feng, group vice president at Li-Ning, said the brand “represents a fresh perspective in combining art, craftsmanship, and characteristics of Chinese culture.”
“The designers showed their ability to balance creativity and commerciality, which we know will appeal to our customers when launching our collaboration,” he added.
Michael Ward, managing director of Harrods, said Ponder.er stood out this year because the brand has “an incredibly strong sense of identity, and their DNA was clear throughout their presentations.”
“Their collection demonstrated a seamless and evident journey from the brief’s inspiration to the end product all while keeping their customer at the center of their designs,” added Ward.
The winners of the second edition of the Yu Prize, founded by entrepreneur Wendy Yu, were revealed during a virtual ceremony on the last day of Shanghai Fashion Week’s three-day digital showcase.
Besides handing out the top award, Yuchen Han of AlienAnt scored the Rising Voices Award in partnership with Ugg. He will receive a 100,000 renminbi cash prize and a collaboration deal with the footwear label.
Olivier Lorans, vice president and general manager of Deckers China, said the company was impressed with the Fashion Institute of Technology graduate’s futuristic imagination positive energy, and dynamic designs.
Louis Shengtao Chen, Private Policy, Ruohan, Victor Wong, and Yirantian all bagged the Creative Impact Award in partnership with Yumee. Each one of them will receive a 50,000 renminbi cash prize.
Left: Yuchen Han of AlienAnt, Louis Shengtao. Middle: Derek Cheng and Alex Po of Ponder.er. Right: Yitantian, Siying Qiu and Haoran Li of Private Policy, Ruohan, and Victor Wong.
Yu said this year’s winners represent a collective power and the best of China’s rising talents.
“I’m inspired by their creativity, passion for innovation, and sustainability. From one of last year’s semi-finalists to this year’s grand award winner, Ponder.er has successfully managed to go deeper to refine their wonderful and unique vision and cultural narrative, whilst translating it also in business terms.
“I was also very impressed by Louis Shengtao Chen’s avant-garde romanticism, Ruohan’s effortlessly chic contemporary minimalism, Private Policy’s unique interpretation of inclusivity, youth culture and sustainability, Victor Wong’s out-the-box thinking and futuristic designs, and lastly Yirantian Guo’s integration of Chinese cultural heritage with her modern aesthetic,” she continued.
“I hope that the Yu Prize serves as a form of validation for our winners in helping to build their international profiles and grow their influence globally,” she added.
This year’s winners were chosen from a panel of judges including Yu; fashion designers Iris van Herpen and Mary Katrantzou; Shanghai Fashion Week’s Lu Xiaolei; Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode’s executive president Pascal Morand; OTB Group president Renzo Rosso; Vogue’s Sara Sozzani Maino and Sarah Mower; Harrods’ Ward; Labelhood founder Tasha Liu; Huasheng Media founder Xuan Feng, and former Elle China editor in chief Xiao Xue.
A reception for the finalists will be held later this year in The Harrods Residence if COVID-19 rules permit, and all winners will receive mentorship from OTB.
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