France’s upcoming Hyères International Fashion, Photography and Accessories Festival (April 23-27) turns thirty-five this year. Like the stylish world it celebrates, the finalists are making their mark with diversity, original materials, artisanal expertise and personal vision. Half of the shortlisted designers, five out of ten, are from France, which shows a marked increase. The rest, selected by a jury presided this year by Jonathan Anderson, are from Poland, Belgium, Italy and Austria.
Aline Boubert and her Poco&Co Studio is a case in point. Boubert, 37, is French, but after studying in France and Finland, she moved to Africa where she has been “weaving intercultural and interdisciplinary influences” in design and fashion for the past decade in Ouagadougou and Burkina Faso. Today she works directly with African artisans and says she prefers the term textile experimentation to fashion for her work. For Hyerès, Boubert’s unisex collection featuring mosaic-like, double face leather cutouts that can be modified by the wearer in do-it-yourself style is inspired by West African culture and mysticism, from masks and statues to hairstyles and voodoo traditions. “Immersing myself in another culture enhances my perception and gives my design diversity,” says Boubert.
Maximilian Rittler, 29, is from Vienna and based in Antwerp where he studied at Anvers’ Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Rittler’s menswear is rock star flamboyant from his big bad wolves graphic tweed tailoring to leopard guitar suits and the Rockhero silhouettes from his “Rock Me Amadeus” Master collection. “Finally being able to translate my drawing, my vision within a silhouette on the human body is the fascinating experience,” says Rittler who wants to continue designing clothes “for a big house, my brand or a Wes Anderson film.”
From Florence, Italy, Andrea Grossi, 23, who studied at Polimoda channels his obsession for video games and mangas into fashion. “I love the idea that I’m recreating the body of the person who wears my clothes,” says the designer who works in leather, Lycra and Duchesse satin. To achieve his second skins, Grossi fine-tunes techniques from printing to lasers and uses different forms of corrosion. He creates an avatar in 3D and then takes the pattern directly off the body by computer.
Also revolutionising materials is French knitwear designer Xavier Brisoux. who studied at Central Saint Martins, and knits into vegetal, organic forms that have a futurist, mythical look. “I work at the intersection of fashion, knit and sculpture,” says Brisoux who says his influences include the work of French artist Simone Pheulpin whose sculpture in strips of unbleached cotton resembles fossils. Emma Bruschi, from France, won 2019’s Mercedes Benz Master Prize at Head in Switzerland for her “Almanach” a collection made in wood, straw, wicker and natural leather. Bruschi’s menswear has an androgynous, timeless look with crochet straw pants paired with big shirts made from old linen sheets and jackets in Embroidered raphia.
Marvin M’Toumo, another recent French graduate from Head, makes fashion and film shorts. He turns insults into beauty with his “Chien Fleur” women’s’ collection inspired by the animal comparisons (chickens, pigs, and cougars) used to insult women.
In a category of his own is Belgium’s Tom Van Der Borght, 41. “I’m not in search of traditional beauty or cuteness,” he says. Van Der Borght’s graphic pieces for men cover the body in bright sculpture and pattern to ask the questions “What does society consider normal?” And “What is weird?”