Highlights from the International Talent Support Contest

We wander through the show in Trieste, discovering explosive developments in fashion

Italy‘s most eastern city, Trieste is geographically and culturally located at the intersection of the Mediterranean and Central Europe. It’s there that Barbara Franchin created International Talent Support (ITS) back in 2002, one of the most respected events for emerging talent in fashion design. This year’s event saw some 900+ creative projects submitted from 80 countries centered on the theme “So bold, almost incredible.” From that 900, there were 30 finalists from 17 countries, selected by 19 international jurors.

While the event centers around innovation in fashion design, the ITS Creative Archive plays a significant role as well. With portfolios, apparel, accessories and more, the archive houses 16 years’ worth of ITS pieces that students and professionals from all over the world can see. That’s some 17,000 portfolios, 220+ garments, 200+ accessories, and 700+ photographs.

Before the final catwalk show, we meet with Franchin, who tells us, “Among the 30 finalists, there are all sorts of personalities—some are immature, some are not fully aware of what they’re doing, but some are ready to open their maison and start selling.” She quickly adds, “As long as that’s what they want. I always remind them that their only goal cannot be to showcase in Paris, London or Milan fashion weeks; there are different sizes and different scales. Sometimes it’s better to do a little independent thing and keep on having a life rather than trying hard to achieve an unattainable goal.” Franchin and her team are also working on a new project called Each One Teach One, for which past finalists return and teach at the ITS lab. She tells us, “It will not be a school, but a permanent, living laboratory that starts from the archive.”

Wandering through the show itself, the quality and originality of the entrants’ work is undeniable. Several projects revolve around the body, considering fashion as more than decoration. One example of this, Australian designer Kira Goodey’s “Ninety Days” collection focuses on understanding in-between spaces—for example the blurred lines between digital and physical, natural and artificial. The result is rainbow-colored PVC pieces that twist and turn like some kind of alien flora.

Jander Jil‘s designs mesh together fashion, architecture, product design and adventure. The striking “Underwater Distortion” collection of blue-lensed glasses aims to recreate how we see underwater, investigating alternative perceptions.

Accessories designer Laura Olivella hones in on the message “Life is not what we live, but what we remember and what we transmit to others” for her “Shadows of an Interconnected Journey” collection. Making references to Arhuacos culture, yet adding a geometric twist, Olivella’s pieces seem to represent a different kind of retro-future.

The hats made by Chinese designer Tingting Zhang—apparently created for those who constantly live with their heads in the clouds—are gloriously cartoonish. (Think: Dr Seuss meets Bjork.) The patterns are created by translating sound data into visuals; ideal for when you can’t get that tune out of your head.

Images by Paolo Ferrarini