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Tommy Hilfiger’s Fashion Frontier Challenge Spotlights Diverse Innovators

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Tommy Hilfiger announced the winners of its annual Fashion Frontier Challenge, a global design and innovation program that highlights the work of emerging industry creatives.

Designed to pinpoint and promote ideas that create greater inclusivity in the fashion industry, the three-year-old program hosted its most recent virtual event on Jan. 12-13. Six finalists presented their concepts to a jury panel, and two companies—Netherlands-based Lalaland.ai and Rwandan brand UZURI K&Y—were selected as winners, to share a prize fund of $228,000. The winners, selected from a group of 430 startups from 22 countries, will also take part in a year-long mentorship program with experts from Tommy Hilfiger and graduate business school INSEAD.

Lalaland.ai’s platform uses artificial intelligence to create ethnically diverse and differently sized virtual models to be used by e-commerce companies. Michael Musandu, the group’s co-founder and CEO, described inclusivity as the heart of Lalaland’s vision. “Being part of the Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Frontier Challenge brought incredible insights and will elevate our AI solution to reach more people than we could have imagined,” he said, adding, “our team cannot wait to empower a welcoming online shopping experience, so no consumer feels under-represented.”

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UZURI K&Y, meanwhile, produces environmentally friendly footwear using recycled car tires collected from sub-Saharan Africa. The brand employs local women and donates shoes to underserved youth in the region. Co-founder and CEO Kevine Kagirimpundum said UZURI K&Y is “dedicated to drive real impact and inspire the youth of today to craft a cleaner future.”

“This opportunity has provided mentorship, strategic guidance, and given us a platform to share our dream of bringing sustainable footwear options from Africa to the global market,” she added.

Ideas were submitted to the Fashion Frontier Challenge board in January 2021, and jurors focused on supporting and amplifying the efforts of Black and diverse entrepreneurs during this cycle. For the first time, Tommy Hilfiger fans were also invited to participate in the challenge’s first phase and cast votes online.

Fans were encouraged to vote at the January event, and a third group was awarded $17,000 to advance its idea. Voters chose Clothes to Good, a social enterprise focused on creating micro-business opportunities and jobs for people with disabilities in South Africa through textile recycling. “It’s humbling to know others believe in our dream to really make a difference for people with disabilities and their families,” operations director and occupational therapist Tammy Greyling said. “We feel blessed to be recognized by the Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Frontier Challenge viewers, it’s an experience we will never forget.”

This year’s jurors included founder Tommy Hilfiger, CEO Martijn Hagman, and executive vice president of sustainable business and innovation Esther Verburg, along with actor and director Yara Shahidi, INSEAD adjunct professor and entrepreneur Adrian Johnson, managing director of Fashion for Good Katrin Ley, and Yvonne Bajela, founding member and principal at investment firm Impact X Capital.

“This empowering challenge brought together passionate and hard-working individuals with fresh ideas on how to create a future of fashion we can all look forward to,” Tommy Hilfiger said in a statement. “It was an impressive final event, and I am proud to continue this journey with the entrepreneurs who presented groundbreaking and impactful solutions that challenge how we think, build, and create.”

The Fashion Frontier Challenge will begin accepting applications for its fourth cycle in March.