The Kids Are All Right in Trieste

“15000 applications, 1500 schools in over 80 countries, 140 journalists from 36 nations,” read the big screen at the award ceremony, marking the 15th anniversary of the Its Fashion Festival in Trieste, Italy.

In less than two decades, this fashion, accessory, and jewelry contest has earned a glossy reputation for its well-produced events set against wondrous sunsets on the Adriatic Sea. Supported by such heavy players as Diesel and Swatch, Its founder Barbara Franchin and her staff have also shown a canny ability to attract several industry heavyweights among its guests and jury, which this year included historians Valerie Steele and Colin McDowell, designer Silvia Fendi, and Vetements’ and Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia. The latter himself won the top prize back in 2004.

The presence of Gvasalia and his acolyte, the stylist Lotta Volkova, gave the event a particular urgency. Not only because he is one of the most influential designers right now, but also because their own Vetements attire, he in an Antwerpen sweatshirt, she in a black leather apron dress worn with neon-green boots, symbolizing a new generation’s cool and unfussy approach to luxury. This is the context in which young designers are working today.

The top fashion award went to New Zealander Mayako Kano, from New York’s Parsons school, for her collection of loose deconstructed dresses alternating opaque and sheer fabrics.

But what really shone on the runway — and that can be said of fashion in general at the moment — was the menswear. Niels Gundtoft Hansen, from Denmark, who won the OTB (Diesel) prize and a job with the company, opened his portion with a compelling collection or colorful urban and industrial sportswear, worn with heavy, almost sci-fi black shoes.

Modateca and Deanna prize winner Anna Bornhold also deservedly won the OTB award. Her men’s and women’s collection used fuzzy fabrics, some imitating denim on comfortable pieces with a dash of humor; one cardigan read “she loves me, she loves me not.”

South Korean Séro Oh, who didn’t win a prize, overlaid bits and pieces of tailored pieces and sportswear, producing an intriguing mix.

Also noteworthy was German Sari Rathel’s collection of geometric accessories highlighting body parts, like armpits, elbows, and yes, genitals, so that a female can have a protuberance in the nether regions. The graduate of the Royal College of Art in London won the Jewelry award.

The real stunner of the festival was indisputably Helen Kirkum, a jovial British designer who creates footwear from scraps of discarded sneakers, carrying with them wear, tear, and memory, thus wonderfully bringing them back to life. She deservedly went home with two prizes: the Accessories and Vogue Talents awards. She is also about to move to Germany, where she’s been tapped to work for Adidas. She’s a serious talent to watch.8fbf36371936c87f7ed1487dd0476a4e

©Stéphane Gaboué 2016