We have already asked this conundrum of a question but if you missed it, here it is: picking 5 stories of 5 finalists items that best represent two decades of research at International Talent Support, is no easy task. Which is why we’re back with another 5 for you to enjoy, a sort of “episode 2” of what could easily turn into a series of its own right. 18,000 portfolios, over 325 outfits, 152 accessories, 103 jewellery pieces and 700+ photography projects. The most talented young minds. No wonder it’s such a treasure trove of creativity.
So sit back and enjoy another time-travel experience through some of the most extraordinary young creatives we’ve discovered. We’ll tell about their work, about how we found them and how their professional careers developed after ITS.
Perhaps no one from the over 630 finalists at ITS has ever changed so radically as Eli Effenberger, a Hogeschool Antwerpen graduate and winner of two awards at ITS in 2005 (Maria Luisa Award & Special Jury Prize). Eli’s decision to leave fashion design and focus on her true passion was nothing short of abrupt, and for a long time the only thing we knew about it sounded more like a legend: apparently she had literally disappeared overnight, dumping her fashion collection, not to be heard of again. Several years later she resurfaced under the pen name “Marmite-Sue” as an incredibly gifted doll illustrator and maker. Her fascination for dolls and their idealised beauty was already visibile in the ITS fashion collection which unfortunately didn’t survive. We do have the portfolio presenting that collection in our archive, a work of art in itself since Eli’s talent in illustration and painting is unique: every single sketch page is unquestionably beautiful.
Eli today is internationally renowned for her porcelain dolls, sought after by collectors all over the world. Recently she has collaborated in the realm of fashion again, creating the dolls for the SS21 Men’s collection presentation by Walter Van Beirendonck (who taught her fashion design in Antwerp…). If you would like to read more about her we had the pleasure of interviewing her a few years ago, you can read the feature here.
Designers like Iris Van Herpen, Massimo Osti and Hussein Chalayan are known for pushing the technological limits of fashion, experimenting with the latest discoveries in materials, treatments, production processes. 2008 and 2009 finalist Yuima follows the same path with his futuristic approaches and his use of the latest technological discoveries to develop fabrics that challenge the boundaries of what is possible. In his ITS collection he paid tribute to one of the greatest innovators of all time, Leonardo da Vinci, without missing on the opportunity to use a NASA developed fabric with incredible strength properties. Back when 3D-printing technology had barely come out, he developed an entire collection revolving around it. Since the Fall/Winter 2016/2017 season he has been regularly invited to show his couture collections at Paris Fashion Week. His vision for the future of mankind is one in which “Eventually, each and every garment will be unique and different.”
During the pandemic in mid-2020 Yuima presented Face to Face. Made-to-order garments usually require physically meeting a client, and an understanding of the clients’ needs and sizes through real-life dialogues and measurements. In this project all client interactions took place online. Like a random lottery, Yuima selected a number of clients who applied for the project and asked them to send him a white shirt, asking about stories that were tied to those shirts. Inspired by these conversations he redsigned and reimagined them, returning a completely new garment. A project where clients and designer co-create. The entire service was offered free of charge as charity, in hopes to bring smiles in such dire times. By offering apparel which balances craftsmanship with technology, Yuima aims to bring tailor-made clothes to a wider range of people.
Felix Chabluk Smith
2013 finalist Felix embarked on a profoundly intellectual journey with his Royal College of Art graduation project. Every single outfit is composed of layers upon layers referencing the history of men’s fashion. His collection was made from fragments of the same masculine ideals of wealth, power and protection spanning seven centuries: 1890s frock-coats hide under 16th century cloaks over 1920s tuxedos. Doublets from 1630 are spliced with waistcoats from the 1840s, 1950s drape coats are worn over 1760s vests and medieval underarmour conceals late-Victorian smoking jackets. Since it carried such an amount of historical fashion references, Chief Curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum Harold Koda, who was sitting in the ITS Jury that year, decided to purchase his entire collection to permanently showcase it in New York. Felix today is Senior Designer working at Balenciaga under the eye of Creative Director Demna (ITS 2004 winner).
Richard Quinn was a sensation at ITS 2015 with his handmade floral prints on a 50s couture-style collection. Everything about his work indicated he would be well received by the fashion industry, and that’s precisely what happened. Following ITS he skyrocketed: he won the H&M Design Award in 2016 and was nominated by the British Fashion Council’s NEWGEN as one-to-watch in 2017. In the beginning of 2018 came the big bang: he makes history when Queen Elizabeth II attends his AW show during London Fashion Week – never before had the Queen attended – to award him with the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design. The same year in May, Amal Clooney changes plans for her MET Gala outfit: Tom Ford’s team had already designed her a gown, but she opts for a Quinn design. Richard then went on to win the 2018 British Emerging Talent womenswear at the coveted Fashion Awards, and invited students from the schools he attended – another first, for LFW – to sit front row at his following show, in order to create awareness on art education in the UK.
Recently, Richard Quinn has been experimenting with menswear too, during an AW2021 fashion show styled by Carine Roitfeld. And rumours have it that he might be considering an offer from a big maison in Paris…
2016 Accessories Collection of the Year winner Helen Kirkum appeared in the ITS Creative Archive long before even being considered as an ITS finalist… and she owes it partly to accessories finalist Marco Baitella (today at Bottega Veneta), who was in her same course at Royal College of Art in 2015 and basically planned a school trip to Trieste to visit our archive. Helen is gifted with a rare quality in designers: she has carved an unexplored path and made it her signature style, developing it in an eponymous brand that is now renowned internationally, with collaborations that have given birth to impressive innovation in sneaker aesthetics and development. Sustainability is such a huge and complex topic today and though we at ITS have seen designers challenging themselves to find solutions, it is sadly still a farfetched goal in the industry. But Helen Kirkum is part of a new generation of talents that are proving how recycling and waste reduction can spark real innovation and beautiful products. She researches and collects parts of used sneakers bringing them back to life through a time-consuming process which rebuilds an entirely new sneaker from scraps that carry stories and the lives of who wore them before, the creases like veins holding the essence of past experiences. The challenge in her case was to come up with an attracting aesthetic, often the downside when working on a puzzle of used parts. Mission accomplished: Helen has under her belt footwear projects developed for Adidas, Lacoste, Timberland Nike as well as for sustainability enfant prodige Bethany Williams. Currently her studio – apart from developing bespoke sneakers from recycled and dead stock materials – is spreading her signature design through making ethos in talks and workshops. And Helen has recently presented her second, mindblowing limited edition capsule collection for Reebok.
A few more unique seeds of creativity we kept track of, watching them grow to their full potential. Saving creativity, preserving that first spark of genius for the next generations to see and be inspired by. 20 years of ideas and solutions. Meticulously conserved as a lasting legacy for the present and the future, for prosperity. ITS Arcademy – The Ark of Creativity will be the purposed setting to watch, rediscover, get involved, learn.