Unusual Beauty in Reality at Hyères Festival

If you could take just one idea home from the 34th annual Hyères International Fashion, Photography and Accessories Festival that closed yesterday (Monday, 29 April 2019) after five sunny days at the historic Villa de Noailles overlooking France’s Mediterranean coast, it’s that innovative upcycling and inclusivity are style’s new gold standards.

Christoph Rumpf's menswear collection presented at the 34th edition of the Festival d'Hyeres. Photo: Courtesy of PR. 

Judging from the work of those shortlisted in this year’s competition, creating new beauty today means seeking a vital reconnection to reality whether it’s off in some far flung “unglamorous” place, or in an overlooked corner of one’s home, then transforming the castoffs, refuse, humblest materials and images found into treasures. Increasingly young fashion photographers and designers are mining the margins of our fast-paced world and their output feels like a fresh antidote to the dehumanizing uniformity of AI and the stereotypical dictates of good taste.

 

The expanding list of high-profile sponsors at Hyères, from Chanel and Chloé to Swarovski, Premiere Vision, American Vintage, Petit Bateau, Mercedes, Galeries Lafayette, Givaudan fragrances, and fabric producers like Supima cotton and Puntoseta, among others, proves just how voracious we are today for new ideas and young talent and just how much we yearn to be associated with them both. The festival, which, in addition to the competition, includes over 30 original exhibitions each year by past winners, sponsors, jury members, and other creatives, as well as master classes, workshops like this year’s American Vintage-sponsored plant dye workshop with Aurélia Wolff, concerts, performances, and parties, has become a creative, see-and-be-seen hub where idea seekers converge to answer the question: what’s next?

 

Michael Birch's "Pierce, Fem Top" at the LOVE MY WAY exhibition at the 34th edition of the Festival d'Hyeres. Photo: Courtesy of PR. 

Associated with Hyères for the past three years, American Vintage, clothing for men and women, based not far from Hyères in France’s Var region, sponsors one of the festival’s photography prizes and has also joined forces this year with the Villa Noailles to acquire Hyères’ Villa Romaine, a historic house from the 1880s with an extensive exotic garden to be used as an additional exhibition space for the festival. Villa Romaine kicked off with the eye-opening “Love My Way,” featuring the work of over 200 artists from Coco Capitán and Brian Kenny to Larry Clark, David Hockney, and Jean Cocteau curated by Pau Avia and Hyères’ founder and director Jean-Pierre Blanc. The multimedia show of works inspired by love in all its forms, displayed throughout the house and gardens, felt more like visiting the personal collection of an obsessive patron of the arts, a latter-day Marie-Laure de Noailles, than a public exhibition.

 

One of the big attractions at Hyères is its talent-packed juries and this year did not disappoint with Natacha Ramsay-Levi, Chloé’s Creative Director, heading the fashion jury; the celebrated photographer Craig McDean and Art Director Marc Ascoli on the photography jury; and Clara Cornet, Creative Director of Buying for the new Galeries Lafayette Champs-Elysées, on the accessories jury.

Alice Mann's "Drummies" presented at the 34th edition of the Festival d'Hyeres. Photo: Courtesy of PR. 


Work from the 10 photographers on this year’s shortlist appeared much more personal than fashionable which, of course, is just what art directors are looking for. This year’s Grand Prize winner, the South African Alice Mann, 28, who is based in London, photographed ‘drummies,’ the girls, many of them disadvantaged, who perform in South African drum majorette bands and stand out like human flags in their sequin-covered uniforms and big white boots. Hilla Kurki of Finland won the still life prize, and Hubert Crabières, 30, took the American Vintage prize for his color saturated naïve and stylish portraits, many of them featuring everyday people, his friends and family, wearing high fashion.

 

Christoph Rumpf's menswear collection presented at the 34th edition of the Festival d'Hyeres. Photos: Courtesy of PR. 

Austria’s Christoph Rumpf, 25, won Hyères’ 20,000€ Première Vision Grand Prize with the opportunity for a project with Chanel’s Métiers d’Art (up to 20,000€) and a collaboration with Petit Bateau (10,000€ plus royalties), for his menswear tailoring with angular, projecting volumes in brocades and lamès with beading, fringe, and other cocktail dress refinery. Rumpf, who studied at Austria’s University of Applied Arts fashion department, where he honed his construction techniques under designer Hussein Chalayan, says he finds inspiration in the contrast between clothes’ initial function as protection and the “self-presentation and beauty” role they have today. “I want people to become someone else when they wear my clothes,” he says, “someone they dream of being.”

Tina Schwizgebel-Wang's menswear collection presented at the 34th edition of the Festival d'Hyeres. Photos: Courtesy of PR. 

Tina Schwizgebel-Wang, 29, from Switzerland won Hyères’ 20,000€ Chloé prize for her Chloé-inspired design: a silky shirt tunic held lightly together with sculptured safety pins, topped with a brocade wrap skirt suspended from the waist by a belt, while Ireland’s Róisín Pierce, who produced an all-white collection of intricately puckered pieces using her own pulled thread technique, bagged Chanel’s Métiers d’Art 20,000€ grant to produce a new project to be shown at Hyères next year.  

 

Tina Schwizgebel-Wang's menswear collection presented at the 34th edition of the Festival d'Hyeres. Photos: Courtesy of PR. 

Often Hyères’ smaller prizes turn out to be the most directional, like this year’s Special Jury prize for Japanese trio Tetsuya Doi, 26, Yota Anazawa, 25, and Manami Toda, 32, whose “Polomani” collection is a fashion illustration of a double personality combining salvaged Armani tailoring and Polo Ralph Lauren preppy sport, along with Finland’s Milla Lintilä, 29, who presented one of the most wearable collections in slinky and glowing mixed knits inspired by the French early 20th century dancer, painter, and writer Valentine de Saint-Point, author of “The Manifesto of Futurist Woman.” Lintilä will produce a special collection for Galeries Lafayette, an excellent opportunity for a young designer.

Noelia Morales' "Mastectomy Patch" presented at the 34th edition of the Festival d'Hyeres. Photos: Courtesy of PR. 

Perhaps most surprising of all, and indicative of how beauty can be found almost anywhere today, was this year’s Swarovski Accessories Grand Prize winner Noelia Morales, 46, from Spain and her “Mastectomy patch,” a collection of glittery lingerie patches designed to stylishly boost the confidence of women who have lost a breast to cancer.

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