Hyères Fashion Festival 2017 fêtes Vanessa Schindler and Marina Chedel
The 32nd edition of the International Festival of Fashion and Photography at Hyères, France, which ended on 30th April, was remarkable for the quality of the collections on show, all of them well-realised and very strong conceptually. Proof of the increasingly high standard of this competition for emerging designers, masterminded with passion for three decades by Jean-Pierre Blanc.
The main design prize, the Première Vision Grand Prix awarded by the jury chaired this year by the Creative Director of Schiaparelli, Bertrand Guyon, was won hands down by Vanessa Schindler. Her technical prowess, evident in her innovative work on fabrics, won over the general public too, earning her also the prize awarded by the festival’s public and the city of Hyères.
Schindler managed to turn fabrics into pliant, plastic materials with stunning ability, inventing a new textile and decorative lexicon featuring unprecedented effects with light and volumes. Schindler, 29, hails from the Swiss canton of Freiburg and has spent two years researching her collection.
"I wanted to think about the essence of clothing, and go back to a concept of craftsmanship featuring radical innovation, by moulding volumes into fabrics," she said. In the course of her research, she discovered urethane, a liquid polymer. It is a sort of chemical resin, which fuses into fibres, producing veneers that are at once soft and glossy.
After prolonged observation and repeated attempts, Schindler eventually managed to fashion the liquid material into a solid state which allows it to be used in garments. Under her expert touch, the material, which is akin to silicon, welds pieces of fabric together, lending them volume, replacing hems and turning into coiling curves and graphic motifs.
As a material, urethane is both functional and decorative, as featured in a long, sheer polyester dress bedecked with 3D seashells and snakes shimmering under the spotlights. Elsewhere, urethane morphs into wavy frills on a tulle top, into translucent, geometric jewellery or the trimmings of an uber-chic fur coat.
"I've created a new world,", said Vanessa Schindler, who shares a large studio close to Lausanne with several artists and architects. After graduating from the Haute Ecole d’Art et de Design (HEAD) design school in Geneva, she interned over the course of two years at Etudes Studio, Balenciaga (under Alexander Wang) and Henrik Vibskov in Copenhagen. The work and research environment at the Danish designer's studio inspired Schindler to pursue her studies further, and in June 2016 she completed a master's degree, again at HEAD.
HEAD is also the alma mater of Marina Chedel, 28, the winner of the Swarovski Accessories prize at Hyères. After graduating, she interned at Walter Van Beirendonck and then specialised in footwear, earning a master's degree at the London College of Fashion in December 2016.
The fashion accessories prize was first introduced at Hyères this year. It is endowed with €15,000 in prize money, and also offers the opportunity of working on a project with Chanel on a €15,000 budget.
The prize's jury, chaired by footwear designer Pierre Hardy, was blown away by the unconventional concept presented by Chedel, who was born in Rio from a Brazilian mother and a Swiss mountain-guide father. She has designed shoes sculpted out of wood and leather, "to experience new sensations, rather than simply walk in."
Marina Chedel drew her inspiration from the Swiss Alps, where she grew up "surrounded by crampons, snap hooks and ropes." Her sandals are embedded on vertiginous, plinth-like platform soles, in turn asymmetrical, slanting or crenelated like mountain peaks, "to give the feeling of ascending, of reaching a summit or experiencing a gradient's steepness."
A pair of asymmetrically heeled boots instead gives a certain wiggle to the wearer's walk. "I'm interested above all by technique. I also find it fascinating to be able to make a statement through as small an item as a shoe, through which it is possible to modify posture and gait," she said.
The €15,000-worth Chloé prize, awarded this year for the sixth time, went to German designer Gesine Försterling, for her contemporary take on the Chloé woman. Försterling, 30, has notably learned her embroidery skills in India and was appreciated by the fashion competition's jury for her stunning weaving work.
The fashion jury also awarded a special prize, sponsored by Schiaparelli and worth €10,0000, to Finnish designer Maria Korkeila, 24. A graduate of Helsinki's Aalto University, Korkeila is a creative at heart and began painting as a child, as well as having remarkable manual dexterity (she hand-crafts all her creations). In her work, she superimposed a hyper-sexy feminine look on the physique of male models, through her bodycon knitwear and printed motifs on warm-coloured fabrics.
Finally, French designer Marine Serre, also short-listed for the LVMH prize, was selected by the Galeries Lafayette department store to create a capsule collection which will be available at the department store's branches.
French designer Wendy Andreu won the prize awarded by the festival's public and the city of Hyères for her handbag and hat collection. Andreu, 26, has invented a fabric called Regen, which is neither knitted nor woven but simply glued together with latex, allowing her to fashion a series of water-proof accessories.
As for the festival's photography prize, the jury presided by British fashion photographer Tim Walker awarded the Grand Prix to Irishman Daragh Soden for his portraits of Dublin's youth. The brand-new photography prize sponsored by American Vintage was awarded to Luis Alberto Rodriguez from the USA, who also won the public’s and the city of Hyères’ prize. The still-life prize went to Dutch photographer Roos Quakernaat.
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