2016 Creative Waves. Examples of Utopias hitting our offices these days

01 April 2016


There’s a contestant who sealed his portfolio inside a box with a marble lid, including two hammers to shatter the lid and access the project. Another one sent in 6 spray cans, emptied out and filled with the technical drawings and fabric swatches of his 6 collection outfits. Others put their portfolio in a plastic bag and vacuumed it, or sent it on rolls of exposed film negatives. Just a few examples of the packages we are receiving from the ITS 2016 contestants.

Spring time is a hectic and fantastic moment for the ITS office. As the deadline to apply for the 4 contest areas approaches, our doorbell rings like crazy while creative waves hit our shores. Couriers knock on the door every other hour, delivering hundreds of portfolios in the hands of our schools & contestants team. When a package gets in their hands, the control process begins, maniacally programmed and proof-tested against failure.

This is done almost entirely by hand and it would be unthinkable to do otherwise. We’ve been posting about it on our FB page, have a look here. Apart from updating our digital archive with the arrival of each portfolio and the contestant’s info, everything else is delicately executed using gloves and following a precise step-by-step program. We could compare the opening of each package to an archeologist discovering an unknown artifact.

The comparison is not far-fetched. Hands need to operate delicately and with the utmost attention since you never know what is inside the packages: marble lids and spray cans like this year, or blocks of ice, concrete and inflated balloons (carrying the portfolio inside) like it happened in the past? The variety and, most importantly, the sheer creativity contestants infuse in their projects is astounding. It does not necessarily have a connection with the quality of the project inside (the beauty of the box doesn’t always match the beauty of its content). But the sense of amazement we feel when opening some of the packages is priceless. It’s more than Christmas, it’s like winning the Willywonka ticket every time. Because here are young designers who have willingly chosen to let us step into their dreams. We must respect this deeply and take absolute care.

Everything gets verified and catalogued. Hands flip through the pages checking that everything required for the application is included. If the package contains oversized materials or add-ons, these are registered with the same code assigned to the portfolio. The portfolio itself is inserted in a dedicated folder carrying the name of the contestant and other essential information. A handwritten note on the folder highlights the presence of any extra or oversized material, so when the portfolio will be examined by the jury during selections (they will be doing a blind view by the way, not knowing names or schools to focus just on the projects), the extra materials will be brought in and examined as well.

The names of the contestants are checked to verify if we have already met them personally during our annual Scouting Tour, when we travel to schools around the world to interview students on their work. So we sometimes have the privilege of meeting them first, of seeing for ourselves those hardworking hands that have assembled and prepared the portfolio. Interviewing students personally is a very important part of the process. Sometimes it allows to provide the jury with additional information that is not present in the portfolio. Because portfolio-making is a tricky process and it can be tough for a designer to be totally objective about their work. Sometimes they leave out important explanations and we find ourselves telling the jury “Look, we met him personally, we can guarantee that he is capable of producing what he claims, we’ve seen it ourselves”. This makes travelling essential for us, while also allowing us to catch up with the ITS Family, like at the YKK London Showroom, where we had the opportunity to make a toast with many London-based finalists.

Once the selections process is over and the finalists are chosen, do you really think we’re binning the rest of the portfolios? It would be totally crazy to do that!! As you know well by know, we handle each one of them as a treasure, that gets neatly stored in the Creative Archive, our protected reserve for creative talent. Every single portfolio we have received so far is there, some 16,000 of them. Sometimes we close our eyes and imagine the life of each one of them: brought to life by the hands of a young creative mind from who knows where in the world, travelling thousands of miles to our door, ending up in our hands flipping through its content, in the hands of the jury hunting for the next generation of talents, and finally being stored in the Creative Archive. Only waiting to be touched again, perhaps by another design student coming in for a visit… Such a fascinating, handmade journey.

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