Hong Kong-based gender-inclusive label Ponder.er, founded by Derek Cheng and Alex Po, has been named the winner of this year’s Yu Prize x Li-Ning Grand Award, an accolade launched last year to support emerging Chinese designers.
The duo beat off competition from nine other emerging designer labels to win a 1 million renminbi cash prize, approximately 122,000 pounds / 150,000 US dollars to support the development of their label. In addition, they also won a collaboration opportunity with Li-Ning, a showcase slot within the Sphere showroom in Paris for two seasons, a 12-month mentoring programme with OTB Group, retailing at Harrods and promotional support on China’s social commerce platform, Xiaohongshu.
Each of the finalists had to produce two looks, one conceptual and one commercial, inspired by the dream of flying high and the continued exploration of possibility in the past, present and future, with the Yu Prize organisers stating that Ponder.er “scored highly” for the creative assignment.
Ye Feng, group vice president at Li-Ning, said in a statement: “Ponder.er represents a fresh perspective in combining art, craftsmanship and characteristics of Chinese culture. The designers showed their ability to balance creativity and commerciality, which we know will appeal to our customers when launching our collaboration.”
Commenting on their win, Alex Po and Derek Cheng, co-founders of and designers for Ponder.er, added: “Thank you very much to the Yu Prize and Li-Ning for this honour and opportunity. In receiving such recognition from the Prize partners and jury, we feel even more motivated to continue our hard work and introduce our collections to new markets and customers.
“In the spirit of “Dream to fly”, the theme of our upcoming collaboration with Li-Ning and in winning the Yu Prize 2022, our dreams of flying are indeed coming true as we connect our creative world and ideas with reality.”
Gender-inclusive label Ponder.er wins Yu Prize x Li-Ning Grand Award
Po and Cheng met whilst studying at Central Saint Martins in London and launched Ponder.er in 2019 to challenge gender stereotypes and raise questions against social norms.
Michael Ward, managing director of Harrods and a member of the judging panel, said: “Ponder.er is so deserving of being named as 2022’s Yu Prize winner, the brand has an incredibly strong sense of identity, and their DNA was clear throughout their presentations.
“Their collection demonstrated a seamless and evident journey from the brief’s inspiration to the end product all while keeping their customer at the centre of their designs, so I look forward to seeing more from the brand in the future.”
Yu Prize announces 2022 winners
The Yu Prize also awarded the Rising Voices Award 2022 in partnership with Ugg to Yuchen Han of AlienAnt for his reimagining of Ugg’s heritage shoe styles with an empowering message for the younger generation. Han will receive a 100,000 renminbi cash prize and a collaboration deal with the footwear label to put his design into production for launch next year.
Olivier Lorans, vice president and general manager of Deckers China, said: “Ugg proactively encourages bold self-expression and seeks to support young designers with authentic, brave, optimistic and free attitudes, as we believe these fashion forecasters have the potential to create enduring value and change the world.
“We loved Yuchen Han’s futuristic imagination, his positive energy and his dynamic designs - we can’t wait to bring his interpretation of the iconic Fluff Oh Yeah silhouettes to life with our future collaboration.”
On his win, Han added: “The Yu Prize Rising Voices Award in partnership with UGG is the best award I have ever won since I started my brand in 2019. I can’t explain how much this validation means to a young designer and how excited I am to continue on this journey.
“I truly feel aligned with Ugg’s ethos from a design aspect. This collaboration is an amazing opportunity for our visions to come together.”
The Yu Prize Creative Impact Award 2022 in partnership with Chinese make-up brand Yumee was awarded to five of the semi-finalists: Louis Shengtao Chen, Private Policy, Ruohan, Victor Wong and Yirantian. Each designer will receive a 50,000 renminbi cash prize.
Wendy Yu, founder of the Yu Prize and Yumee, said: “With the Yu Prize Creative Impact Award in partnership with Yumee, this year I chose to award more than just one winner. There were five very versatile designers who truly stood out for me and I believe in the strength and power of a collective.
“I was very impressed by Louis Shengtao Chen’s avant-garde romanticism, Ruohan’s effortlessly chic contemporary minimalism, Private Policy’s unique interpretation of inclusivity, youth culture and sustainability, Victor Wong’s out-the-box thinking and futuristic designs, and lastly Yirantian Guo’s integration of Chinese cultural heritage with her modern aesthetic. I look forward to following and supporting their careers.”