May 5th, 2018, 11:59 PM

In Hyères, Fashion's Future is Decided

By Lauren Morris
The common grounds of the festival. Image Credit: Lauren Morris
Last weekend, the 33rd International Festival of Fashion, Accessories and Photographers showcased promising young members of the fashion industry.

In Hyères, a French town situated squarely between Marseille and Nice, there is a modernist home that sits astutely in the hills - an entity of its own amid the palm trees and salty air. Villa Noailles was built in the 1920's by the French architect Robert Mallet-Stevens for the couple Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, two high society art patrons. 

It's natural that a building that was innovative for its time and a stomping ground for so many avant-garde members of the art world houses an event that celebrates up-and-coming fashion designers, accessory designers and photographers today. This year brought the 33rd iteration of the International Festival of Fashion, Accessories and Photography, which was started in 1986 by Jean-Pierre Blanc. 

Blanc still puts on the three-day festival and oversees the operations of the Villa Noailles year-round as a center for art and architecture. The multicolored posters for the event began to pop up in Paris a few months beforehand, an alluring promise for a good reason for those weathered by the winter to get out of the city for a fashionable respite. Last weekend, AUP's fashion journalism graduate students had the opportunity to cover the event.

'A Vanishing Act' installation. Image Credit: Lauren Morris

The Festival de Hyères is unique in that the two poles of the fashion world are democratized for a weekend; new blood and old blood, the known and unknown. The grounds allow for one to meander freely and the casual ambiance makes it easy to interact with anybody you run in to, even if it's Tilda Swinton, Haider Ackermann (the president of this year's fashion jury), or an array of models you might recognize from the monthlies on your coffee table. 

In tents outside the house and rooms inside, different experiential parts of the festival were set up to be discovered by attendees, from virtual reality to textile installations. On Saturday afternoon, the ten fashion designers nominated as finalists were congregated in one of the outside tents, showcasing their collections and exchanging anecdotes with the public. The photographers and accessory designers could be found inside the house doing the same, all young, energetic and hopeful. As if to validate the mood, former festival participants also had a space in which to feature their collections and network.

Sanna Rasmussen experiments with virtual reality at the festival. Image Credit: Lauren Morris

Lisi Herrebrugh and Rushemy Botter, the Dutch partners behind menswear label BOTTER, were awarded the Première Vision Grand Prize on Sunday. Their winning collection, dubbed 'Fish or Fight', explores connections between their Caribbean roots and urban streetwear, aiming to start a dialogue about pollution, sustainability and the changing face of fashion.

Herrebrugh and Botter were unrelentingly warm and inviting when talking to those curious about their mission, onlooking like proud parents as people fingered the abstract floral fabric, fishing net and clothespin elements of their garments. The duo describes their brand's aesthetic as playful, colorful, elegant and bold. When asked about the singular eponymy of the name 'Botter', Herrebrugh chuckled and said, "My last name is too hard to pronounce."

The pair are also finalists for the LVMH Prize that will take place on June 6th. 

Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh celebrate their win together. Image Credit: Instagram @rushemybotter

The Swarovski grand prize for accessories went to Kate Fichard, a hearing-impaired photographer, and designers Flora Fixy and Julia Dessirer, and their collection, H(Earring). "We wanted to décomplexer the audible device, giving it an appealing design and the same accessory status of a pair of sunglasses," they told Vogue.

Irish-American photographer Eva O'Leary was awarded the grand prize for photography. Her winning series is entitled Spitting Image, a collection of pictures of adolescent American girls gazing at themselves in mirrors. O'Leary's work wanders the parameters of female identity and provokes one to reflect on their own evolutionary experience from teenager to woman. 

Participating in - and winning - the Festival de Hyères prescribes young designers and photographers a future. There are other opportunities to be acknowledge besides the three grand prizes. Sponsors can award participants; this year, Chloé and American Vintage had their own prizes, and there are even 'public prize' winners designated by the local community. Viktor and Rolf won the overall competition in 1993; other noteworthy names of alumni include Henrik Vibskov, Anthony Vaccarello, Felipe Oliviera Bautista and Camille Vivier.

Each year, the deciding jury and the participants change, but people continue to come for one reason: Hyères sets the stage for the genesis of fashion's future. 

This year's fashion designer finalists included: Sarah Bruylant of Belgium, Jef Montes of The Netherlands, Marie-Eve Lecavalier of Canada, Ela Fidalgo of Spain, Regina Weber of Germany, Anna Isoniemi of Finland, Linda Kokonnen of Finland, Ester Manas of France and Antonia Sedakova of Russia.