Hyères 33: a festival in transition

Again this year, the festival has expressed and explored the complexity of the creative act in the fashion universe. A complexity that did not shun critical reflection in this edition.

Villa Noailles, Festival de mode 2018

The 33rd edition of the International Festival de Mode, de Photographie et d'Accessoires de Mode à Hyères has just come to an end. The creation of Jean-Pierre Blanc, its tireless founder and director, it is now reaching maturity and entering a phase of transition. As happens every year, young talents from the fashion world peacefully occupied Villa Noailles, the wonderful Cubist house built by Robert Mallet Stevens in the 1920s on the hills above the city for the Viscount and Viscountess de Noailles. Its white volumes resemble the sets the architect designed for Marcel L'Herbier’s film L'Inhumaine.

The power of the French fashion system at its economic peak was immediately apparent. Chanel, the main sponsor – the winners will create their first collections with the support of the fashion house’s Métiers d'art ateliers – appeared in the long list of partners of the festival, just above LVMH and Kering. The message is clear: we are closing ranks and acting in concert. Here we have to show we’re truly the best.

Pervading the festive atmosphere, the sincere engagement of the jury chaired by Haider Ackermann and the undisputed talent of the designers shortlisted, there was a clear awareness that, once these young talents leave the sun of the Côte d'Azur and Blanc’s embrace, they will be fed into a tough and competitive machine, extremely rapid in its times and modes of production.

Among the winners of past editions, few have had the privilege of making the big-time, but this risk is bound up with the dynamics of competition in any field. Winning the jury's Grand Prix is just the start. Obviously not all of them will be like Viktor & Rolf or Anthony Vaccarello, former festival winners who are now to the fore in global fashion. The complete absence from the competition of certain countries, such as Italy or Britain, does not suggest a lack of talent or valid fashion schools in these countries. Rather it reflects the fact that participation in the festival is stronger in other places, like the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp and the Aalto University School of Arts, now regularly present at Hyères.

Thanks to the beauty of its setting, the festival has grown strongly over the years. The reason for this success lies in its ability to express and investigate the complexity of the creative act in the fashion universe. And in this edition, the complexity did not shun critical reflection. Many of the finalists explored the languages of fashion to convey urgent messages about contemporary life. Decorated like a stage curtain by the delicate lines of designer Alexandre Benjamin Navet, the crowded Hangar de la Mouture was the setting for the prize-giving ceremony. Two Antwerp graduates (confirming what was said above), Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh, won the Grand Prix du Jury Première Vision 2018. Don’t be taken in by the playful and colourful appearance of their work – inflatable dolphins worn as hats and baseball caps stacked on top of one another.

A grim message underlies their collection. The title is significantly Fish or Fight. The creators start from their Caribbean origins and then touch on universal themes: respect for marine ecosystems – the Shell logo warps and sheds its first letter – and the ability of the islanders to transform scavenged objects into episodes of everyday poetry, despite social and economic difficulties. On a more careful reading, apart from the duo’s great technique, you notice how the outsize men’s suits in Glen plaid  patterns are deconstructed to reveal belts made out of fishing nets and coloured plastic bags turned into foulards or waistcoat material.

With circular daises and transparent methacrylate walls, the setting designed by the Dutch Odd Matter outfit formed the backdrop for the selection of the ten finalists in the accessories section. The jury chose the beautiful H(Earring) collection by Flora Fixy, Julia Dessirier and Kate Fichard. This refined project combines technology and jewellery, providing new and revolutionary solutions for people with hearing problems. Their ergonomic creations in gold or rhodium-plated brass are both hearing aids and earrings, showing off the prosthesis without impeding its correct functioning.

The jury’s prize for photography went to Spitting Image by Eva O'Leary: a series of portraits of American teenage girls aged 11 to 14. A moving work, it captures all the vulnerability typical of adolescence and the difficulty of these young people in defining their identities, divided between selfie culture and the stereotyping of certain female images. Although Villa Noailles still shapes dreams and personal aspirations, this year the world with its urgencies was not ignored and has pushed the festival in a new direction.

Exhibition title:
33me Festival International de mode, de photographie et d'accessoires à Hyères
Venue:
Villa Noailles. Centre d’art d’intérêt national, Hyères

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