Meet Masayuki Ino, the humorous conceptualist LVMH Prize 2018 winner

“I am actually really surprised. This really was unexpected,” smiles Masayuki Ino, the 39-year-old winner of the LVMH Prize 2018. Another year and Ino couldn’t even have entered the competition, seeing as he is 39, and entrants have to be less than 40.

Masayuki Ino - FashionNetwork.com

Though his blend of punchy graphics, bold printing and street-style chop-ups of classic tailoring all had made him one of the favorites. In the end, he beat out stiff competition in what will probably be seen as a vintage year, winning ahead of cult UK figure, Scotland’s Charles Jeffrey of Loverboy; the highly thought of American Matthew Adams Dolan and the A-Cold-Wall, the advanced materials clubbing collection by Charles Ross.
 
“Ino is a genuine original. How many other designers create clothes that are sold in plastic chalices? Or produce a T-shirt hanger that looks made for an art installation? He is really different. Plus he is Japanese. No one from Japan, a vital fashion market and a country with a rich history of great designers, has ever won our top prize. So he shows how international this prize is,” said Delphine Arnault, explaining the jury’s choice of Ino.
 
Some 1,300 applicants applied for the prize this year, which celebrates its fifth edition in 2018. Which were edited down to 20 picks that are first judged in LVMH headquarters by a team of 50 international fashion experts, who select the nine finalists. Each of these nine then presents their ideas to a jury of major league fashion designers including Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs and Nicolas Ghesquière. Each jury member, including Delphine’s father, Bernard Arnault, chairman and shareholder of reference in LVMH, has one vote, in secret. In the event of a tie, they vote again.
 
“I think it’s a great experience for any young designer. To come to Paris and present on avenue Montaigne and meet such legendary designers, and scores of fashion experts is a unique opportunity. They meet the whole industry in two days!” enthused Arnault, a senior executive at Louis Vuitton, and the inventor of the competition. Asked what she said to comfort those who did not win, she chuckled, “Exactly what I just said! And, also, try again, Jacquemus won on his second attempt.”


Doublet - Spring/Summer '18

 
Along with Ino, Rok Hwang, a Korean-born, Texas-raised and London-based talent won a Special Jury award. Their prize winnings: 300,000 euros for Ino, and 150,000 euros for Rok.  Both of them will receive a year’s mentoring from a seasoned team of LVMH executives.
 
Asked what he planned to do with the money, Rok deadpanned: “Oh really, there’s money involved?”
 
When Ino was asked the same question he responded: “I have absolutely no idea, I never expected this, but, of course, I am very honored to win such a great prize!”
 
Ino became interested in fashion while a high school student growing up in the north of Tokyo in Gunma, Japan’s horse breeding region. When he told his banker father he wanted to be a designer, Papa told him he had to attend art school. After graduation from one in Tokyo, he ended up working for Yasuhiro Mihara, the Japanese master best known for his historically influenced tailoring, ending up as his right hand man.
 
He lists his favorite designers as Martin Margiela, Mihara and Jeremy Scott, “as I love his sense of humor.”
 
Six years ago he founded his label Doublet, and in 2017 staged his first catwalk show during Tokyo Fashion Week. Now his collections are sold in 30 boutiques in Japan and a further 25 worldwide.
 
Whatever happens, the prize will rapidly accelerate the Doublet brand business and Ino’s international reputation. Winning the LVMH Prize makes one a fashion star overnight.
 
There are those in Paris who snipe that LVMH exploits the event to create a massive database of global talent. A suggestion, which provoked a legitimate chuckle from Delphine. “Oh really? Well it’s strange then that we have only even hired one designer who made it to the first round in Paris in five years. Virgil Abloh, and he didn’t even end up winning!”
 
 

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