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Mercedes-Benz Start Up names three finalists in emerging designer contest

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TORONTO - Three designers based in B.C., Ontario and Quebec have made the final cut in a national contest for emerging Canadian designers.

Vancouver Island's Eliza Faulkner, Alberta-born, Toronto-based Sid Neigum and Montreal-based Valerie Tolila of the label Vaiken are finalists in the Mercedes-Benz Start Up program.

The trio will take part in the national finale at Toronto's World MasterCard Fashion Week in October, with each vying for a prize package that includes a $30,000 bursary and a fully produced runway show during Fashion Week next March. Three additional wild card finalists will be announced next week.

This will be the second consecutive Start Up final for womenswear designer Faulkner, who recently blogged about and posted a photo of Oscar winner Marisa Tomei wearing one of her designs.

Neigum showcased his fall-winter collection during Toronto's Fashion Week last March and already has another emerging designer award to his credit as winner of the TFI New Labels contest in 2012. Womenswear designer Tolila is a graduate of Montreal's LaSalle College and has styled for magazines in Montreal and Lisbon.

Designers competing in Start Up must have a registered Canadian business that has been operating for less than five years. This marks the fourth year in the nationwide search for Canada's up-and-coming fashion talents. Semi-final runway shows were held this month in Victoria, Gatineau, Que., and Burlington, Ont.

The cash award is a new addition to the Start Up initiative. But rather than cutting the designers a cheque, the funds will be administered by a mentoring team.

"Helping them to manage their finances is part of the mentorship and we feel that this is going to be the best way forward," said Jarrad Clark, vice-president and global creative director of IMG Fashion Events & Properties, whose organization spearheads Fashion Week and Start Up.

"There are programs out there that just give cash to the designers, and I've known on a number of occasions where that's just meant that's a wonderful holiday or just paid off their credit card and that's not what this is about."

Clark said while Start Up wasn't created to be a cash prize property, industry feedback revealed that a number of younger designers require a certain level of seed funding support.

Designers will still have to go through the process of submitting why money is required as part of their business plan, he noted. "It's actually going to be made sure that it's in the development of their brand and their collection."

Clark said designers will continue to benefit from mentorship until the fall finale, which includes getting suggestions and even critiques on their collections as they're in development.

"It's a real world experience because the Holy Grail is to present your collection in a way that you want to see it presented. And this way, they get to have their hand held, so to speak.

"Some need it more than others, some have got a very clear vision in what they need. It means that they get the chance to tap into experts in their area of expertise."

Previous Start Up winners include design duo Danielle Martin and Pao Lim of Martin Lim and Montreal's Duy Nguyen. The prize was most recently shared by co-winners Cecile Raizonville of Montreal-based label Matiere Noire and Edmonton's Malorie Urbanovitch.

Follow @lauren_larose on Twitter.



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