Nensi Dojaka

All clothing throughout by Nensi Dojaka. Vintage shoes worn throughout.

Nensi Dojaka Is the Winner of the 2021 LVMH Prize

Growing up in Albania, Nensi Dojaka saw "a lot of old fashion on TV," the 28-year-old designer recalls. She was born just around the time the Iron Curtain fell, and the pop culture that began flooding in "was not necessarily the most recent," she muses, describing the years-old imagery that slowly made its way to her. "That made me really like it in a way." Now, a decade or so later, the young designer and LVMH Prize finalist is preparing to present her first solo show in London, where she's lived since she first enrolled at Central Saint Martins for a bachelor's before graduating from its prestigious MA program. One look at Dojaka's clothes—like the sheer off-the-shoulder top with a delicate inbuilt black bra worn by Bella Hadid to this year's MTV Video Music Awardss—demonstrates the visible imprint of that formative decade.

Nensi Dojaka Is the Winner of the 2021 LVMH Prize

The young designer is quickly becoming known for her assertive, artfully feminine bralettes, dresses, and bold ready-to-wear, often in black. "What I try to do is little black dresses, but that are not just sexy but have a more feminine, more fragile twist to them," says Dojaka from her Highbury studio. "There is this combination: They look aggressive but not really, because there is always a little more delicate part to it that makes it a bit softer. I think this is the thing that sets it apart in a way."

Dojaka, who moved to the English countryside at sixteen for school, takes influence from several sources. Ballet is an obvious one, and her years studying lingerie (her bachelor's degree focus) and interest in architecture are also visible. Sometimes, fine art is an inspiration, "but with art I'm quite specific. I love art that doesn't really inform the clothes," she admits, pointing to Mark Rothko as an example. "I think what I love about it is the depth of the colors. It doesn't really show in my designs, but when I had this fuchsia color, I feel like unconsciously that was the story, because it had the depth and it was a weave of two different dyes that created this very deep color, kind of like he was doing. I do get inspired by art a lot but more in an unconscious way."

Nensi Dojaka Is the Winner of the 2021 LVMH Prize

The Nineties æsthetic and attitude running through Dojaka's designs are clear: Think one part Helmut Lang, with a serving of Tom Ford's unapologetic female sensuality—where the woman is not an object to be consumed but the creator of her own image—and perhaps some of the elegant, otherworldly minimalism of Sophia Kokosalaki at the time. Dojaka's Fall 2021 collection, shown as part of Fashion East, is full of bold, sculptural pieces that "you have to be a daring woman" to wear, she notes. Confident suiting, little black dresses styled with tights featuring delicate cut-outs, and a clean miniskirt and intricate bra top in the aforementioned fuchsia stand out. Raw industrialism underlies the clothes, mixed with ethereal detailing.

In an industry dominated by men at almost every major womenswear house, Dojaka says there is a satisfying strength in being a woman designing for women. "I'm working with a lot of women as well," she adds, mentioning the stylist Francesca Burns and the team of seamstresses who provide essential expertise. "It's important to make women feel powerful through clothes, and that is still not achieved yet in a lot of industries," she continues. "So I think if fashion can serve as a medium to make someone feel the power that they deserve to have, then this is kind of what I am trying to do."

Nensi Dojaka Is the Winner of the 2021 LVMH Prize

At her first standalone show in London this season, she will be able to showcase her vision with more depth than before. "I'm very excited," she says. "This is the first time I'm showing alone. I love the feeling of the show. It's also because when you do the show, there are all these different models, all these different women, and the collection is presented much better."

This diversity and sense of possibility show through in Dojaka's vision for her woman: "I don't like to define it too much," she says of the person who might inhabit her designs. "I am happy for anyone to wear them."

See the full portfolio of the 2021 LVMH Prize finalists here. Read this story and many more in print by preordering our Fall 2021 issue here.

Nensi Dojaka Is the Winner of the 2021 LVMH Prize
Model: Hannah Thatcher at Select Model Management. Hair by Sophie Jane Anderson at Future Rep. Makeup by Athena Paginton at Future Rep. Photographer's assistants: Tommy Francis and Cameron Williamson. Stylist's assistant: Molly Robinson. Casting by Clémence Orozco Bello at Lock Studios. Production by Daisy Bendel at Lock Studios.

As a nonprofit arts and culture publication dedicated to educating, inspiring, and uplifting creatives, Cero Magazine depends on your donations to create stories like these. Please support our work here.