Meet the Nominees for American Emerging Designer of the Year at the 2021 CFDA Awards

Five up-and-coming designers are being recognized on fashion's big night. Here's everything you need to know about their impressive careers

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Edvin Thompson for Theophilio

Edvin Thompson and Sha'Carri Richardson attend the 2021 Met Gala benefit "In America: A Lexicon of Fashion" at Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021
Taylor Hill/WireImage

How did you get your start?

I was grateful to showcase my first collection along with a good friend of mine Bobby Day in a garage in Brooklyn New York back in 2016.

What does American Fashion mean to you?

American fashion is progressive and defines many cultures and communities within America.

Which celebrity dressing moment is most memorable to you and why?

Dressing Sha Cari Richardson and Alton Mason was my most memorable moment because it was my first time dressing someone for the Met Gala

Who is your dream celebrity client and why?

My dream celebrity client is Rihanna. The icon she is and where she is from is so inspiring. I believe we share similar stories coming from the Caribbean islands of Barbados and Jamaica, extending our community through the art we do.

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Jameel Mohammed for KHIRY

Jameel Mohammed attends The 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021
Mike Coppola/Getty

How did you get your start?

I started working in the fashion industry via summer internships in women's apparel design that I was lucky enough to undertake in high school. Each was an incredible step in confirming that this was the industry that I wanted to make my mark on.

What does American Fashion mean to you?

American Fashion is full of possibility. Unlike European fashion capitals, we are much more focused on the future of our industry as opposed to reflecting on a bygone golden age.

Which celebrity dressing moment is most memorable to you and why?

When Michelle Obama wore KHIRY to the Becoming book stadium tour in 2018 I had just moved back home with my parents after several years in the industry – I was feeling like my position in the industry was very tenuous and marginal, so to see one of the world's most recognizable and important women wear my brand in a moment of personal doubt was incredibly encouraging.

Who is your dream celebrity client and why?

I would love to dress Rihanna. I feel like her style is iconic and personal, and I get the sense that she's incredibly self-directed in her style. I would love the opportunity to collaborate with her on items and looks that would marry our two aesthetic worlds.

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Maisie Schloss for Maisie Wilen

A model walks the runway for Maisie Wilen during NYFW: The Shows at Boom Boom Room on September 11, 2021
Arturo Holmes/Getty

How did you get your start?

After studying Fashion Design at Parsons I worked for a while as a Designer at a very mass-market swimwear company before ultimately moving on to design at Yeezy. At Yeezy Kanye surprised me by offering to support me in launching my own brand.

Which celebrity dressing moment is most memorable to you and why?

Rowan Blanchard styled by Chris Horan -- she was the very first star to wear MW, only a few days after the launch.

Who is your dream celebrity client and why?

Dennis Rodman. He was my first style icon! I have incredible memories of being very little, growing up in Bulls-mania Chicago totally captivated by his changing hair colors.

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Kenneth Nicholson

Kenneth Nicholson attends the 2021 Met Gala benefit "In America: A Lexicon of Fashion" at Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021
Taylor Hill/WireImage

How did you get your start?

I began designing in high school and after studying fashion design at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco and time in the USN, I moved to Los Angeles and started interning for LA based fashion labels. After finding it difficult to be brought on a team in a permanent capacity, I decided to start my own label (which had always been my plan) launching Kenneth Nicholson in 2016 with a feature of my first collection in The New YorkTimes.

What does American Fashion mean to you?

I think there is a notion of ease that sometimes accompanies American Fashion. Whether its day or evening there is this idea that ease is more often than not accounted for, or at least that has been the case for the better part of the last century. I think that factor as a rule seems to be changing as we engage shifting attitudes in society mainly the want to express more of personal identity.

Which celebrity dressing moment is most memorable to you and why?

Madonna at the 1996 MTV music Awards is defiantly one of them. I think it was a case study example of high fashion that was solidly identifiable yet not overbearing. It also spoke so clearly of where fashion actually was at the time.

Who is your dream celebrity client and why?

I would love to work with several celebrities. Tilda Swinton, Kanye West, Timothee Chalamet, Kid Cuddi to name a few. Currently I think it would be fitting to work with LaKeith Stanfeild. I think he has a unique quality about himself. When you watch him you really get a sense that he is an artist's artist, there's layers and depth to him. I feel that there is a kindred kinship, I've also felt similarly about Donald Glover.

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Eli Russell Linnetz for ERL

ASAP Rocky attends 2021 Costume Institute Benefit - In America: A Lexicon of Fashion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021
Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty

The Venice Beach native — who got his start as a child actor — is a true multi-hyphenate creative. Throughout his career, Linnetz has directed music videos for Kanye West, co-produced an album for Kid Cudi, written songs for Teyana Taylor, designed stages for Lady Gaga and built the ultimate chill surfer-inspired label with ERL.

When the fashion designer found out about his CFDA honor, he just so happened to be in the middle of getting A$AP Rocky dressed for the Met Gala. (The rapper wore Linnetz's multi-colored quilt designer on the red carpet).

"It was an overwhelming moment of ecstasy. I didn't really process it till later that night. I'm not one to celebrate. The next day I started sketching what I was going to wear to the CFDA awards," he said.

As for his fashion philosophy, Linnetz wants to keep the laid back spirit of his hometown alive and says he hopes the industry will start to embrace "more chaos" and "less rules."

"I don't think too far into the future. I focus on the textures and colors that bring me happiness," he continued. "Venice is far away from all those big fashion giants. In Venice, there are no rules. I often just walk the streets bare foot in my boxers and no one questions it. It's about finding things on the side of the road and living free. Laid back and no stress."

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