AZ Factory becomes a program for young fashion talent

Founded within the Richemont Group by the late Alber Elbaz, the fashion label is to be transformed into a mentoring program and scholarship for promising designers. Since the death of its creator in 2021, AZ Factory had been collaborating with emerging talents via seasonal capsules.


AZ Factory will be transformed into a program of scholarships and support for young talent, dubbed “AZ Academy: Business For Designers”.


The inclusive, accessible fashion brand, founded in 2019 by Alber Elbaz within the Swiss Richemont group, had already undergone its first transformation. The Israeli designer had passed away from Covid in April 2021, having presented only the first opus of his new label three months earlier during Paris Haute Couture Week.


Richemont then decided to call on creative talents to embody the brand each season. From April 2022, South African Thebe Magugu, French tandem Ester Manas, German Lutz Huelle, British Lucinda Chamber and Molly Molloy, and Finnish Jenny Hytönen successively delivered their personal vision of AZ Factory.




The idea was not entirely new. Long before Richemont, back in 2018, down jacket brand Moncler had launched its Moncler Genius program, proposing to reinvent its famous down jackets in capsules, to artists from fashion (Rick Owens, Valentino artistic director Pierpaolo Piccioli, New York-based Englishman Karl Templer, Irish designer Simone Rocha…) or other horizons such as music (Alicia Keys Pharrell Williams, Jay-Z…). Jean-Paul Gaultier has more or less taken up the idea, entrusting his ready-to-wear collections to guest designers (Ottolinger, Palomo Spain, Shayne Oliver…) since 2021.



But while the formula of collaborations seems to work well for established brands such as Moncler or Gaultier, it’s not certain that it has enabled a House still in its infancy to really take off….


AZ Academy: Business For Designers, AZ Factory’s new avatar, retains two initial ideas: to target emerging and established designers, and to pursue AZ Factory’s DNA of ‘smart fashion that cares’. But the business is no longer commercial.


One-year program


AZ Academy: Business For Designers, which will draw on the Richemont Group’s Creative Academy and a partnership with Italy’s Accademia Costume & Moda in Milan, will take the form of a one-year program.


The aim is to enhance the skills of designers with “a unique program designed” to “equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to turn their creative ideas into successful, investor-friendly businesses”.


It is aimed in particular at “emerging creative talents and new designers, who aspire to launch their own brands after graduating from international fashion schools”. But in addition to the latter, “professional designers already in the industry who are at a turning point in their careers” can also try their luck, since May, to enter the AZ Academy.


In September, their applications will be sorted by a jury of fashion professionals, who will select a dozen or so based on the creativity and durability of their dossier. The “winners” will then receive a scholarship and will travel to Milan in early 2025 to benefit from the new Academy’s program.


They will follow this full-time program, structured around various themes (marketing, merchandising, developing an offer, production, sales, logistics, legal and administrative aspects), to help them build or consolidate their House.




In addition to general training, participants will be helped to define a personal mentoring plan. At the end of the program, they will have ten or so meetings with tutors, who will help them draw up their final project. This will be presented to an internal Richemont jury in December.


For the Swiss group, this new initiative is part of its drive to open up to tomorrow’s talent, a goal also pursued by other major luxury players with their own schools or partnerships with existing structures.


In addition to its Creative Academy, founded in Milan in 2003, which prepares students for a Master’s degree in Design and Applied Arts, Richemont has also created the Retail Academy, available in Shanghai since 2011, Hong Kong SAR (China) in 2019 and New York in 2020.

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Featured Photo: © AZ Factory

Picture of Sophie Michentef
Sophie Michentef
Sophie Michentef has worked for more than 30 years in the professional press. For fifteen years, she managed the French and international editorial staff of the Journal du Textile. She now puts her press, textile, fashion, and luxury expertise at the service of newspapers, professional organizations, and companies.

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