Revelations from the portfolios of the ITS#FOUR Applicants

18 April 2004


There is a Reaper whose name is Death,
And, with his sickle keen,
He reaps the bearded grain at a breath,
And the flowers that grow between.

taken from The Reaper And The Flowers
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

What happened to the world in a year? Here we are sitting on the floor completely surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of portfolios from all over the world, 70 different nations to be precise, pondering and trying to absorb what we have seen and read. This is the third week that we find ourselves in this position staring intensely at a portfolio, perhaps for the fourth time, reading everything thoroughly to make sure all is understood. Fascinating – we will never cease to be astounded by some of the things we see, and we feel privileged to be in a position to do this. All portfolios are treated firstly with respect and dedicated time to be understood, because we are well aware there is never one “right” way or one “true” beauty. It begins to feel like we are preparing for an exam with all this studying and memorisation. An “exam” is the wrong word because most of the time it has negative implications and in reality we are doing something that we love … observing from afar what hundreds of young fashion designers have in their heads. We have put together a mini report which condenses sensations and trends we as attentive spectators picked up.

Casting back memories to last year… What ever happened to childhood and fairytales, puzzles, fish, the circus and where are all the heroes?… Doom and gloom seems to have consumed the portfolios with images of death, blood, macabre scenarios that leave us with little or no hope… “The Reaper and the Flowers” was quite a fitting poem as a general description of the hundreds and hundreds of portfolios that were sent to ITS; death and flowers. It would have been perfect had it spoken of blood and gore, too. From India to Holland, USA to Japan we found collections dripping in red blood. Sometimes deep cuts were slashed into clothes or simply red stitching marked wounds inflicted by violence or indicating pain and suffering. Not for those who are squeamish at heart. There was more dreariness to be found, skeletons, funerals, gagged mouths, covered or no faces and death itself.

It seems as if other young designers created a natural antidote by filling their collections with flowers to counterbalance the morose material. Flowers of all species, shapes and sizes whether printed on material, embroided or actually taking the form of the outfit. Sometimes a garden became the refuge from the rest of the world.

Forms -everything went topsy turvey when volumes shifted from the waist below to the waist above (with the exception of a Japanese applicant who remained faithful to keeping volumes down low). Many details were savoured from the bust above, puffed sleeves, bows, compositions of buttons, lace, sequins … Deconstruction seems to have taken a momentary time out, leave leaving almost no trace in applications.
Materials -in the previous editions of ITS the use of fur was shunned but this year it’s use is uninhibited, reflecting a wider acceptance that can be found on the catwalk. Jeans, jeans and more jeans as the protagonist of a collection or in its traditional form, ripped, printed, stitched, baggy, tight, street style but also haute couture, every colour of the rainbow. Use of leather is still popular with some super bling bling of gold and silver leather.
Colours -plenty of black and red but there was also gold and silver, some collections left no colour untouched with a melange of all colours under the rainbow and more.
Prints-animal prints of all sorts in their natural colours as well as bright fluorescent variations and flower prints.

We did not just gaze at the portfolios but spent a lot of time reading concepts. The first thing we noticed that there were more collections without concepts, their “raison d’être” simply because, why not, I like I make. Adding to themes of death and desperation, and flowers we saw appearance from Robin Hood, William Tell, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th century art, and quite bizarrely a few were titled “Laura Ashley at Studio 54”!

This is our insight into what we observed… who knows what surprise the future ITS#Applications will hold in the coming years! For now we will just wait and reminisce.

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