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Fashion is Good.  Fashion is Evil.  There's a dichotic statement that I could go on and on about.  As it flashed across the screen in the opening sequence at the final show of the 11th ITS competition, which just finished up this weekend, I was thinking I could open up that can of worms and let off some steam. 

The competition may have centred around a somewhat superfluous theme of GOOD vs. EVIL but at the core of it, it was still very much about the good prevailing.  The good, being the breadth of creativity and skill that was very much evident at the competition, where I was asked to take part in the jury.  The evil?  Well, I'll leave that up to you to decipher what that is‚Ķ

International Talent Support has been giving support to fashion students for just over a decade now, choosing the sleepy but pretty border city of Trieste in Italy as its competition base.  Diesel has been supporting the competition from the very beginning and have awarded around EUR700,000 over the years to worthy students, who have gone on to either set up their own labels or work for houses and brands.  Those who have followed the blog from the very beginning will know that I used to frequent Hy√®res, which is another similar competition.  Together, both Hy√®res and ITS form a highly covetable set of prizes for fashion graduates to aim for.  At ITS for instance, there's Diesel Award of EUR25,000 and a Diesel internship, Fashion Collection of the Year EUR15,000 and the Fashion Special Prize EUR5,000 being the main one up for grabs.

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Whilst both competitions are open to students from schools all over the world, the bulk of finalists do end up being from European schools.  Still the mix of nationalities of students can be wide-ranging, what with so many students opting to study abroad.  This is something that marks ITS out.  The emphasis on International is something that is particularly important to ITS founder and director Barbara Franchin.  For instance she's aware that ITS gets a lot of high calibre applications from a lot of the London schools but, she's keen on ensuring the final list of finalists isn't too heavily biased towards one city.  Therefore this produces a really eclectic mix of collections, something which was interesting to delve into, once all us jury members got stuck into viewing portfolios and quizzing the students.

Most people will think I'm the strange anomaly, whenever I take part in these sort of jury sessions.  A blogger?  On an esteemed jury panel for a student fashion competition (ITS have had the likes of Cathy Horyn and Raf Simons on their juries)?  You're having a laugh right?  A laugh at my expense is a small sacrifice though because actually, this is the sort of stuff that I thrive on, delving into students' work and looking at fresh points of view.  

In addition to all the works seen here, I was definitely reminded of the measured way of viewing these student collections, something which is a regular feature on the blog.  The point isn't to promote them so that they are pushed into starting their own thing or to look at these clothes from the perspective of what I'd personally wear.  Instead, it's about glimpsing into the future, promoting work that could well be beneficial as young blood working in houses and brands.  The success of an ITS winner or participant isn't necessarily that they all go on and set up their own label (although many have done‚Ķ people like Peter Pilotto, Mark Fast and Aitor Throup) but that they also get spotted by houses.  People from the ITS alumni now work for the likes of Maison Martin Margiela, Lanvin, Givenchy, Dior and Jil Sander to name but a few.

It may be a consolation cliche but it's somewhat true that no matter who wins, everyone is a winner.  I think most students return from these competitions, having gained an experience that is valuable on some level – meeting people in the industry, meeting like-minded contemporaries and experiencing an environment outside of fashion school that can be eye-opening.

For me, I found the jury process a little trying what with such a diverse array opinions that were naturally going to differ but it was certainly fair in its outcome in that the results were calculated on a wholly mathematical basis.  It was interesting having the artist Marina Abramovic on the jury, as her point of view was completely free of fashion industry niggles and therefore quite refreshing.  Then there were ITS regulars like Sara Maino from Vogue.It and Deanna Ferretti, a key knitwear and textiles specialist, who were clued into the history of the competition and could see what sort of student would benefit from the prize money at stake.   Then there was lil ol' me trying to go with gut instinct but also trying to see whether the student would be suited to the relevant prize.   

Therefore here comes the mammoth round-up of fashion finalists, both winners and participants‚Ķ did we make the right choices?  Feel free to disagree‚Ķ 

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Cherie Newing (United Kingdom) – Ghetto knitwear could be a genre all on its own in London.  In menswear in particular, there's been a tendency to fuse streetwear codes with high fashion techniques.  In Cherie Newing's case, she was watching The Wire and taking those silhouettes and applied a range of finessed knitwear techniques to them, blending machine and hand together to get a mix of textures.  Newing used  STOP sign imagery and the colours of urban landscape to guide her colour palette but it's the exuberance of youth that really propelled this collection.

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Chiaki Moronaga, Coconogacco (Japan) – Ex-winners Mikio Sakabe and Writtenafterwards designer Yoshikazu Yamagata have set up a fashion school in Tokyo called Coconogacco and are gaining momentum with a few of their students coming over to Europe compete.  I wanted to go give Moronaga a big hug after her presentation as she trembled with emotion, saying things like "Fashion is my mother."  You can chortle at that but you got the feeling Moronaga meant every word.  Her collection was a romantic and unfettered indulgence of all the things Moronaga loves.  More is more and gold is gold.  You could see some veins of Meadham Kirchhoff and John Galliano coursing through the clothes but I doubt Moronaga was conscious of those references.  Whilst technically, the collection wasn't quite there, you couldn't help but feel charmed.  

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Ichiro Suzuki, Royal College of Art (Japan) – The final Fashion Collection of the Year award of EUR15,000 went to Ichiro Suzuki (you can see him holding back his tears below) and I think he had us at his portfolio when we saw samples of his incredibly intricate patchwork, which he then worked into his vision of modern tailoring.  He twisted the norms of English tailoring and used patchwork in unexpected ways – black and white op-art with figures appearing in the pattern, 3-D cubes jutting out of jackets, a lion's head made up of shades of grey and a heat-sensor graph-inspired check.  All finalists were asked to create a special project for Diesel, based around a "haute couture" reinterpretation of denim and Suzuki's project with his laser-cut baroque swirl denim was particularly impressive.  

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Isabel Vollrath (Germany)Isabel Vollrath took us on her personal journey to St Petersburg, collection memorabilia from the place and collaging them up into the sort of clothes that reminded you a little of Maison Margiela Artisinale collections, especially with the pieces made out of well-worn ballet pumps.  It was a story that felt compelling on paper but perhaps fell short in the resulting garments.  Vollrath scooped EUR3,000 and a bizarre Saturday Night Fever prize, designing the costumes for Tony Manero and Stephanie Mangano for the musical that's about to open in Milan.  Feel free to raise your eyebrows at this point.

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Isabella Kuru, ESMOD Munchen (Germany) – There are often cases where you get mind-blowing portfolios and then somehow the clothes don't quite match up.  I felt this was the case with Isabella Kuru.  Her research of Aramanian people and their language was in-depth and intriguing.  No doubt there was a lot of work that went into the distressed textiles but the final collection unfortunately felt like a strange homage to Rick Owens.  I did absolutely love her portfolio and illustrations though.

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Luke Brooks, Central Saint Martins (United Kingdom) – I've featured Luke Brooks before when I was rounding up the Central Saint Martins MA 2012 class.  I thought there was something very vibrant and exciting about the way Brooks approaches his work and his methodology is completely out of the norm.  In this way, Brooks may have baffled some of the jury, which to me was a good thing.  To get straight to the point and make people question our tastes is something that just doesn't happen enough in fashion.  Having seen Brooks' BA collection and knowing that this particular "FUCK YOU" collection was a personal battle with himself regarding the process of creation, it's clear to me that whilst his way of working isn't conventional, he is capable of producing incredibly skilled work at a pace that suits him.  Marina Abramovic asked him directly at the student presentation "What makes you angry about fashion?" and after a few seconds, Brooks replied "'I feel like perhaps writers and journalists in fashion are not critical enough and this can make it difficult to have a discussion."  What he didn't realise then was that his collection may have gone some way towards aiding that discussion as whenever the jurors convened, Brooks' collection came up as a topic that prompted discourse and pondering.  Brooks' work may not be everyone's cup of char.  And thank god for that.  His thought-provoking and creative output was awarded Fashion Special Prize of EUR5,000.  

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Marius Janusauskas, Hogeschool Antwerpen (Lithuania) - I thought I'd hear the end of Sleeping Beauty after that Rodarte S/S 12 collection but Marius Janusauskas chose to ignore the Disney version and instead invent his own modern day sleeping beauty.  A girl who might be lying in a hospital bed with hospital open-backed robes on with her delicate dresses slightly charred and burnt from a fire somewhere.  She also is bound with plastic tubing with blood-red thread running through it as a way of keeping her alive.  Yes, it's a little bit literal but Janusauskas impress Renzo Rosso and he was duly awarded the Diesel Award of EUR25,000 and a six month internship.  I wonder if there's more to Janusauskas than meets this ultra-fem-fem eye, looking at his earlier work from his time at Antwerp's Royal Academy.

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Mark Goldenberg (Israel) – If there was a people's choice award, I think Mark Goldenberg would have scooped.  His "Woven Bird" collection has already done quite few internet rounds but it's seeing it in person that you appreciate the handcraft of these intricate dresses.  Inspired by the wing structure of birds and the artwork of Naum Gabo, Goldenberg constructed dresses out of metal rods and knit as well as feather-like corset strips that would criss cross and cocoon the body.  

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Shengwei Wang, Central Saint Martins (China) – On my visit to Frida Kahlo's house in Mexico City, I spotted a few of Kahlo's voluminous dresses that would do much to promote Mexican craft.  Shengwei Wang in turn was inspired by Frida Kahlo, the person and knitted up a storm for her collection of maxi dresses that are really odes to artisanal knitwear.  Restricting her palette to monochromatic creams and greys, Wang chose to convey Kahlo's complex persona with a whole host of knitted textures involving bobbly yarns, metal and lace.  Wang impressed so much with her skill that an award of EUR3,000 was created for her by one of the jury members Deanna Ferretti.

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Veronika Kallaur (Belarus) – It was a little surprising to see this petite brunette dressed in a prim white shirt and white socks with brogues presenting what was quite a terrifying vision that stemmed from Russian Orthodox art and papal uniforms.  It reminded me of grotesque art.  No, not how we normally use the word "grotesque" but the  distorted and macabre imagery that I associate with gothic buildings.    

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Yong Kyun Shin, Central Saint Martins MA (South Korea) – Why fix something if it's broken?  Or in Yong Kyun Shin's case, why fix a spring that isn't broken?  This CSM MA graduate found his central technique and stuck to it, using metal springs and twisting and turning velvet and wool in and around them to create on-body sculptures that catches the light with occasional velvet panelling.  It's the Christopher Kane method of hammering in a motif until you're convinced of it.  On the catwalk, it was definitely a well conceived and impressive feat of technical silhouettes but it was unfortunate that Shin, due to a visa issue, couldn't be at ITS to present his collection himself.  

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**EDIT** The text about Luke Brooks was amended on Monthday 16th July 2012.

Comments (16)

  1. ttea says:

    From an aesthetic point of view I like the Marius Janusauskas and Chiaki Moronaga because of the simple elegance of them. In terms of who I feel is the most innovative I would have to say Ichiro Suzuki. I’ve never seen anything like what he does before, and I had to take a long hard look at it in order to understand the process. I can’t say whether the right choices were made because I don’t know what the requirements for each prize were, but those are my personal favourites.
    http://fashionananthropologicalpointofview.blogspot.ca/

  2. Rhoda says:

    those are amazing collections, very impressive! got great inspirations from this post!
    http://www.styleandshades.blogspot.com

  3. Hillary says:

    Hmmm out of everything I would say I liked Chiaki Moronaga’s collection the best…it just has such a dreamlike and ephemeral feel too it but somehow it still lingers…hrm I doubt that made any sense. Oh and also Mark Goldenberg’s collection was quite beautiful. Looking at his collection up close, all the details seem to pull me in.

  4. Urban knitwear would have probably been a better way to word the chunky knit look. These are all great photos nonetheless. So inspiring..
    xoxo,
    Taylyn.
    http://www.onlyforthesweetest.com

  5. I loved Suzuki’s work!! So classy and wearable!! I hope some fashion house takes a chance on him.
    Greetings from Santiago, Chile.
    http://carethewear.wordpress.com
    Twitter: @cristianpavezd
    Facebook: http://on.fb.me/uywe6X

  6. Serdane says:

    So stunning creations. I admit that Fashion is Good and Evil too but I think that it’s its charm.
    http://www.younglington.wordpress.com

  7. What an incredibly difficult choice to make! I have to say though, my personal favorite was Mark Goldenberg’s bird collection–the craftsmanship looks astounding!

  8. Stills says:

    Amazing collections! Mark Goldenberg’s is my favorite :)
    http://www.stills.rs

  9. lenny says:

    Lover!!!where can i buy it?

  10. Just loved this fashion blog seems tobe really awesome and fascinating just loved the idea of trendy dressing up.

  11. Maya says:

    Everything about these designs is stunning. The Luke Brooks looks were so imaginative and I probably enjoyed those images the most. But every designer seemed equally talented and creative. I’ll be waiting to see how they evolve in the future.

  12. All of the collections are….WOAH the top of creativity!!! ITS is the most important contest here in Italy (I’m from Trieste) and win it means open the doors of fashion world in the right way.
    I dream this contest (and MittelModa too, the other important fashion contest), but it’s sure: enter is too difficult if you haven’t a big and strong personal idea of fashion and a lot of creativity.
    Great post!

  13. I was very excited this morning to see this covered!very valuable information with great timing,i’ll definitely use this info.It’s cosy & the color & the prints of the fabrics are amazing!

  14. Nathan Niche says:

    omg i remember seeing the MA show where Luke Brooks was the first to come out, as I recall you actually were sitting directly towards me, but I was in the third row lol… all these are really intense, even the simple monotone ones that actually had each individual piece cut a sewn to create a visual effect that was so precise that from afar it looked like a print.
    It is a bit overwhelming as it seems like the pieces are trying to fight to see who’s work and fabric manipulation is the coolest and stands out the most. hard to pick a favorite or even know who the strongest is really, I guess it depends who’s collection shows the most maturity and has the newest wow factor that adds to what already is an overflowing AW12-3 fashion season.
    xx nathan.niche
    did somebody say GIVENCHY NOSE RING?
    http://style-niche.blogspot.hk/2012/07/feeling-nosey.html#comment-form

  15. Justice and honesty says:

    I just wonder if they have any rule to prevent plagiarism in order to not disappoint people who are striving for real creativity.
    For the last two years, works of ITS winners (Ichiro Suzuki and Shaun Samson) have been heavily referenced or copied from other people idea. Compare Ichiro’s with Bronwen Marshall (www.bronwenmarshall.com). Ichiro’s lion patchwork is exactly the same technique and idea with Bronwen’s Horse shirts. Even colour range is exactly same.
    The winning project of Shaun Samson in ITS 10 is almost identical to Japanese designer Akira Naka’s innovative knitting technique. Is it ok to copy unknown great work for the sake of the competition or for impression? They need real criticism.

  16. susie_bubble says:

    Is it at all possible that both designers happed upon similar techniques as those recent predecessors by coincidence. You can never be entirely sure. For instance, Bronwen Marshall was inspired by facial injuries of World War I to create her patchwork whereas Ichiro Suzuki looked at an actual piece of tailoring patchwork to inspire his work (the piece was in his portfolio). I’ve seen both portfolios and it seems to me both took very different routes but somehow ended up on a similar solution. Suzuki ended there because his focus is purely on tailoring whereas Marshall’s resulting collection wasn’t as specific as that.
    Then in the case of Shaun Samson, that felting technique can’t really be “claimed” by Akira Naka. Felting has been done in some 80s knitwear pieces that I’ve seen in vintage stores. I agree there are some similarities but knowing Samson and his way of working, I believe that he came upon felting as a solution to his design conundrum. In any case, even if Naka can claim that he did it before Samson, it is Samson who has inevitably captured people’s imaginations. Good technique alone doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. It is the way that Samson specifically used the felting in oversized hip-hop inspired pieces, coming from his So-Cal background that makes his work interesting. It’s his referencing of cholo style and fusing that with tartan and cable knits that is really quite exciting.
    You are right that you must be careful not to plagiarise work that isn’t at the forefront but I do believe in these two cases, we must give the benefit of the doubt. There is such thing as coincidence and in both cases, neither source that you mention are doing anything that hasn’t been done before so in which case, it comes down to who does it better or who has captured a mood or a zeitgeist?

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