Lifestyle

Matthew Harris Eyes The Prize

Sunday, July 23, 2017

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SO readers would have, like us, applauded lustily last Monday afternoon's announcement that our 2015 TSO bestie Matthew 'Mateo' Harris was among Vogue's top 10 Fashion Fund finalists. It's a big bloody deal for us here on the Rock as the 32-year-old, MoBay-born-and-raised, self-taught jewellery designer, who attended Baracks Road Primary and Cornwall College both in the second city before pursuing further studies in the US at Southern New Hampshire University, is the first Jamaican to have been shortlisted.

For the uninitiated, the CFDA/ Vogue Fashion Fund is an annual competition established in 2003 to cultivate the next generation of emerging American design talent. It's a rigorous process with hundreds not even making the first cut. Harris walks us through the selection process.

Matthew Harris (MH): The process started in the spring. A preliminary application is completed and sent in. The application basically asks about your business, aesthetic, the past, present and future of the business and why you're applying.

After this process, if you are fortunate you get a congratulatory letter stating that you have made it to phase 2. From over 100 designers/applications, only 30 or 40 are selected to continue to the next round.

But this is where the hard part begins. You then have to create a brand portfolio which best defines and showcases your brand. This is where I really pulled out the stops. I did a museum-worthy book. Paul Andrew, the previous winner of the CFDA, was a mentor in the process and helped me to submit the best book.

Style Observer (SO): How does one even get their foot through the door?

MH: Well, one can visit the CFDA's website to see the requirements. But a solid American business is a necessity, as they are looking for the best. They are looking for the next best American brand.

SO: Where were you when you got the news, and what was your reaction?

MH: On Monday, July 17, I saw a missed call. I am not in the US but in the countryside of Portugal working on my new luxury handbag collection. I returned the call only to hear the recording of the CFDA / Vogue office. I almost died, still not even getting a word. Completely overtaken by anxiety! The e-mails from the Vogue office started to flood in asking me to call Steven Kolb, the president of the CFDA. I called the office where Steven gave me the news: You have been selected as one of the Top 10 Finalists.

Words can't explain the feeling. I told him I wanted to cry. He laughed, saying every year there is one contestant who is a crier. We both laughed.

SO: What happens next?

MH: Well, we have a calendar full of events leading up to the final/awards presentation on Monday, November 6.

Wednesday, July 26th, 8:00 am, Interviews/Presentation at Milk Studios (New York)

• Tuesday, October 17th, Design Challenge Cocktail Party (New York)

• Tuesday, October 24th-Wednesday, October 25th, Los Angeles Trip. Welcome Cocktail, Fashion Show and Dinner (Los Angeles)

• Monday, November 6th, Announcement of the 2017 Winner and Runners-Up (New York)

SO: And if you win?

MH: I would like to win and get the mentorship. I started this business, with no background or formal training in jewellery. And I have worked vigorously to make it into what it is today, even opening a New York City flagship store in Nolita. The exposure and mentorship would help to expand my reach and solidify the brand.

Last, but most certainly not least, the prize money of 400K. I am still a self-funded, fully self-owned business so the funds would be helpful in expanding, marketing and our e-commerce.

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