In the cool, dark days of January, while the Scandinavian sun snoozes silently below the arctic horizon, the runways of Stockholm are crackling with shutter clicks and chromatic light. Lean models part the ivory catwalk with angular, jutted jaws; a pout of garnet lips, quick turns, swooshes of matted hair. Their loose garments, stitched carefully from long, torn strips of rough fabric, splash verdant colors in puffy pleats and vertical lines. It is the fashion equivalent of assemblage: clothing from collage. The collection’s name, “They Can Cut All Flowers, They Cannot Keep Spring From Coming”—a quotation from Chilean poet Pablo Neruda—perfectly describes the refabricated raiment, whose vivid greens, whites, and yellows touch off a floral mosaic of billowing, vernal life.
“I always wanted to be a fashion designer,” says Eddy Anemian, creator of the spring-inspired, 18-piece collection. “I don’t know how I could do anything else.”
Here at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, one of several international shows sponsored by the German car maker, Anemian’s single-minded ambition would come as little surprise to the crowd, which buzzes with excitement over the 24-year-old’s avant-garde work. Inspired by Tilda Swinton’s character in Luca Guadagnino’s film I Am Love, as well as French painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Anemian’s handcrafted apparel bested competitors from 32 top-tier schools to win the H&M Design Award, giving the budding designer 50,000 euros and a development deal that will bring his designs to H&M stores in at least 12 countries this fall.
The prestigious prize is a windfall for Anemian, who is now finishing his fourth year at La Cambre fashion school in Brussels. Anemian is grateful to AGBU for the scholarship support that has enabled him to attend the elite school and buy material for his projects.
“When you are a fashion design student, you have to spend a lot of money on fabrics and photographs,” he says. “Thanks to this funding [from AGBU], I was able to buy fabric and make prototypes, which freed me up and allowed me to be more creative.”
Thanks to this funding [from AGBU], I was able to buy fabric and make prototypes, which freed me up and allowed me to be more creative.
A native of Saint-Chamond, a small town outside Lyon in central France, Anemian grew up involved with AGBU and the Armenian community. As a child, he attended AGBU events with his parents, both of whom were active in the organization, and participated in AGBU sports and youth programs. Drawn to the arts from an early age, Anemian relied on the support of his family and community to help pursue his creative goals.
“The fashion industry loves rich people. When you are rich and have lots of connections, it is easier,” Anemian says. “My grandfathers came from Turkey and Syria, and I am just a middle class French guy. It makes things more difficult.”
Those difficulties, however, didn’t stop Anemian from entering the fierce competition for the H&M award. After being selected as one of 30 students to pass the first round, Anemian traveled to Sweden to present 10 of his outfits and interview with a main designer for H&M. The high-stakes final round took place in London, where he struggled to choose the best five outfits to present.
The jury included fashion designer Erdem Moralioglu, Vogue Italia fashion editor Sara Maino, Downton Abbey actress Michelle Dockery, British Vogue executive fashion editor Serena Hood, H&M creative advisor Margareta van den Bosch, and style star Michelle Violy Harper. After being selected the winner, Anemian rushed back to school to prepare eight additional outfits to present at the Stockholm show, completing six months of work in one frenzied four weeks.
With his cash prize, Anemian wants to put together a new collection and possibly work toward starting his own label. As he puts it, “I want a 20-year-old woman to wear my clothes as easily as a woman of 45.”Also chief among his goals is to create clothing inspired by Armenia, which he has explored during his time at La Cambre.
“My school is afraid because they don’t want something too folkloric or old,” Anemian says. “I absolutely love Armenian costume, but I want to think of my Armenian origins in a modern way. I bought some Armenian fabric when I went to Armenia three years ago, so maybe I will use it in my new collection.”
Anemian is especially keen on incorporating Armenian colors into his apparel. “Armenia is such a beautiful country. You can see wonderful colors in the nature, like the green and yellow in Karabakh. I would like to use the very strong red that you see in the flag and pomegranate.”
Now preparing to leave school and enter the professional world, Anemian is interested in designs that feature leather, applique, and embroidery. Having interned with such esteemed designers as Gaspard Yurkievich, Yiging Yin, and Balenciaga, Anemian is armed with a wealth of ideas, experience, and practical knowledge. Although his heart lies in creating custom-made haute couture garments, such as those he displayed in Stockholm, he acknowledges the benefits of working with a major retailer like H&M, which can shine their spotlight on the up-and-coming Armenian star.
“I grew up Armenian,” Anemian proclaims. “I speak Armenian with my family. I love Armenian culture, food, and music. I am proud of my origins, and I want to make a name for Armenians in fashion.”
With tremendous talent, international recognition, and the backing of the AGBU community, Anemian certainly has a bright future coming his way.
Banner Photo by Bastian Traunfeller