Fetish, food or gender fluidity: Is this how we'll dress in 2050?
"Utopia is always an idea and it cannot be achieved -- if it has been achieved, it's not utopia anymore. But the existence of the idea of utopia is so important because we are looking for something better, and we keep trying to find it."
Numéro China's editor-in-chief Karchun Leung was just one of the fashion industry experts we spoke to at the July 16 International Talent Support competition -- an annual contest to find the fashion world's next big thing and foster creativity -- in the seaside town of Trieste, Italy.
While he meditated on the competition's chosen theme, utopia, it was down to the entrants to make their own impossible dreams a reality.
Across fashion, jewelry, artwork and accessories categories, the finalists presented a broad range of pieces, projects and processes, some more conceptual than others.
From footwear based on food to gender-fluid jewelry to futuristic sensory technology concepts, the creativity on show was certainly impressive.
And the winner is...
The winner of the ITS Fashion Award -- New Zealander Mayako Kano, who claimed the €10,000 ($11,000) prize -- created one of the more elegant provocations: pieces that incorporated 1930s-40s cutting techniques with modern layering and fabrics.
Royal College of Arts grad Helen Kirkum won the ITS Acessories award with footwear made of old sneaker parts, a meditation on process, ownership and obsolescence in our hyper-commercial society.
Science and mathematics were recurring themes, with the winner of the Swarovski award, Tatiana Lobanova, creating jewelry inspired by quantum theory and human energy, while Swiss designer Stefanie Tschirky's fashion collection -- involving what looked like a lot of cling film -- was driven by questions of beauty in relation to science and art.
An important anniversary
This year's event marked the 15th anniversary of International Talent Support, founded in 2002 by Barbara Franchin. Though each year sees juries made up of high profile names from the fashion industry, the anniversary saw the return of many notable faces.
Georgian designer Demna Gvasalia, who won the ITS Fashion Award in 2004, is one of the contest's biggest success stories. The founder of Vetements -- and now creative director of Balenciaga -- returned to judge the fashion collections this year, alongside the likes of Carlo Capasa, president of The National Chamber of Italian Fashion; and Silvia Venturini Fendi, president of AltaRoma and creative director for accessories and menswear at Fendi.
Visions of utopia
In light of recent global events, this year's theme seemed particularly relevant.
Franchin explained their thoughts behind this choice: "It's a utopia to go ahead for so long organizing this kind of event; it's a utopia to put all these people together in the name of creativity, in this moment when things are really bad, every day. The only answer that I know is to build rather than destroy things."
Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, echoed these sentiments.
"We're in a bit of a malaise in the fashion world right now [...] There is this 'end of the world' feeling at the moment, so it's nice to see these students who are looking forward for their place in the future."
Watch the video above for highlights from ITS 2016.