Stampd is among 10 finalists for the 2016 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. While trying to keep track of all the awards in the fashion industry is a fool's errand, this one comes with some serious credentials. Past winners include Public School, Alexander Wang, and Joseph Altuzarra. These labels have gone on to enormous success in the industry after receiving mentorship from the program's panel—last year's included Anna Wintour, Diane Von Furstenberg, and J. Crew's Jenna Lyons—and the sweet pot of gold filled with $400,000 at the end of it.
Stampd will now compete in a program against the likes of Adam Selman, who makes red carpet gowns for Rihanna; Chloe Gosselin, who specializes in women's footwear; and several ready-to-wear designers, including Area and Brock collection.
In that lineup, Stampd feels like an outsider, despite debuting its first runway show at NYFW this year. Stampd sticks out even more when you browse other sites, like Fashionista, which lists out all the finalists and their respective categories. Stampd is the the lone contestant tagged "streetwear."
"I think we're able to operate, regardless of the demographic we're in, just as good if not better than anyone we're kind of going against," Stampd founder and designer Chris Stamp told Complex. "I'm definitely humbled to be around them, but I also want to stay confident and think that we're not the underdogs by any means, and we can do it, too."
And although Stampd is definitely a brand that, similarly to 2013 winner Public School, sits firmly in the middle ground between streetwear and luxury. "It's not streetwear, but it's not high-contemporary; it's this new thing that's going on," Stamp said. Regardless, this still feels like a win for the broader category. Stampd came up making snapbacks and T-shirts and gaining recognition on sites like Complex, Hypebeast, and Highsnobiety. "There hasn't been somebody that started making accessories and limited-edition headwear and didn't come out in the market immediately doing ready-to-wear collections season after season getting recognized for that," Stamp said. It's like when your team wins the championship—although Stampd technically hasn't won anything yet, this already feels like a win for us.
The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund has been creeping toward this moment for years. Public School took home the hardware in 2013. Baja East, which has often been tagged as at least influenced by streetwear, won last year's prize. Stampd feels like the next to break through. A brand that is best known for producing monochromatic bomber jackets, long T-shirts, and stylish sweatpants is now seen on the same level as ready-to-wear designers.
This has been a long time coming for an industry that has touted streetwear as the next big thing on the runway for several years. But most of that was centered around already established designers co-opting the trend, or the avant-garde takes on streetwear put forward by Hood By Air and Astrid Anderson. Originators like Stampd, who make clothing that is wearable (and psst! pretty damn affordable), making it into this competition is another flag planted in the ground for streetwear. "[Stampd is] street-influenced slash contemporary influenced, and I haven't seem them get behind a brand that came from the roots that I have," Stamp said.
And that's important in a world where, as Highsnobiety wrote earlier this year, streetwear is still considered a "dirty word." The story cites designers like Nasir Mazhar and Heron Preston avoiding association with the word "streetwear." Stampd's nomination is another step toward scraping the rust off this word and putting some new varnish, or, in the words of Birdman, respeck on it. It's a signal that a beautifully made parka, bomber jacket, or maybe even joggers can sit on the same level as runway dresses and high-heeled shoes.
"We want recognition from Vogue, and we put in so much work that we want the same kind of attention that these other brands are getting," Stamp says. "I think this is the future of what's going on within fashion for men right now."
It's a sign that talent that comes out of the very broad streetwear category is just as much worthy of nurturing as a designer in any other category. "For someone like Anna Wintour to take note of what we're doing and notice that [the middle ground between streetwear and luxury] is a real category within fashion, especially for men now, is amazing," Stamp says. "It's awesome to get that accolade from them, and then to know that we're doing something right."