Hyères – The year 2020 will be remembered in our collective memory as a year marked by turbulence and disruption. Since the beginning of the pandemic back in February-March the entire world came to a stillstand followed by complete lockdown in over 100 countries across continents.
The fashion industry was greatly affected by the lockdown and its aftermath. Many designers and brands could not finalize their collections due to the disruption of the supply chain. The large fashion events such as trade shows and fashion weeks had to be canceled or postponed.

Villa Noailles, the cultural and art center of Hyères

Hyères festival of fashion and photography, well known among industry professionals and very much anticipated, was affected as well. Traditionally, it takes place in the end of April/the beginning of May in the picturesque surroundings in the South of France. Due to the lockdown it was rescheduled for the 15th to the 18th of October and took place under strict hygienic measures: social distancing, face masks, hand sanitizer stations, check-in at the entrance and mandatory reservations for all events related to the festival.
Villa Noailles, the cultural and art center of Hyères and an important monument of modernist architecture, was as usual the main venue. Unlike the previous years, it was divided in two designated areas: one private area for selected press and jury members where all live performances, concerts, and speeches happened and the second area for other members of press, professionals, and guests where they could watch the live events on a large screen.
Even though most events happened in one place technically, you couldn’t help but feel the physical separation that ultimately affected the atmosphere and the energy. And even though the technological tools were used in order to bring people together virtually, yet they could not replace real physical presence and real-life social experiences.
Several members of the jury could not physically attend the festival, both the president of the fashion jury Jonathan Anderson and the president of the photography jury Paolo Roversi as well as Tim Blanks, Amanda Harlech, Tyler Mitchell to name but a few. They joined the panel via zoom.

Jury members attended via Zoom

„I will never leave this room ever again, I think…“ said Tim Blanks jokingly to other jury members on the zoom call from his home in London.
Those who could physically attend the festival were happy to be there and felt like being part of something very special.
This 35th edition of the Hyères festival was indeed significant in many ways. First of all, it highlighted the uncertain future of physical fashion events. Can they exist in times of major health crises? Or will they be eventually replaced by digital only events? Those are important questions for an industry that strongly relies on networking and social connections.
Secondly, the festival made clear that we need to find ways to continue to foster creativity and creative freedom especially in times when our basic human freedoms are at stake.
It was an important and courageous gesture on the part of organizers to ensure that the festival still takes place in such unprecedented times. It was a message of support for creative freedom and a message of hope.
„Of all the years this one is the most important as the world is changing…“ said J.W. Anderson in the recorded conversation with Loic Prigent.
The participating designers shared the same mindset. They talked about the struggles and difficulties that they and the organizers faced in order to make the festival happen. They talked about fighting for it. And they were grateful to be there and to be able to present collections they worked on for years.

There was a common concern about the planet and climate change. The designers talked about finding ways to produce quality garments in a sustainable way. Most of them used recycled, dead stock or donated fabrics. They used paper, ropes, plastic cable ties, pillows, found or donated, and converted them into wearable pieces that blurred the line between fashion and art. There was a common emphasis on handmade and hand crafted. Less is more and quality over quantity were concepts they embraced and pushed for. Their energy and the drive to make the industry and the world at large a better place was palpable and incredibly inspiring.

The work of the competing designers was each very unique and diverse and rooted in their individual experiences and inspirations: from refugee crisis (Timur Desdemoustier, Belgium) to reimagining life and the wardrobe of Jeanne Baret, the first woman ever to sail around the world (Katarzyna Cichy, Poland) to the power of music (Maximilian Rittler, Austria)…

Tom van der Borght wins Hyères

The main fashion prize was announced by Jonathan Anderson via video message on Sunday afternoon the 18th of October and awarded to Tom van der Borght from Belgium for his menswear collection of complex and colorful garments slash performative art objects. Van Borght used fabrics, ropes, plastic cable ties and Swarovski crystals for his looks which he called a new kind of haute couture. Van Borght will receive a grant of 20 thousand euros, produce a collection with Chanels Métier d’art worth up to 20 thousand euros and will present his current collection at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Berlin in 2021. Van Borght won the hearts of both the jury and general public as he also took home the public prize of the city Hyères.

Emma Bruschi

The French designer Emma Bruschi also received two awards: the new 19M Chanel Prize for outstanding craftsmanship for pieces she produced in collaboration with the house of Lemarié and the Mercedes-Benz grant for her sustainability approach and will receive a grant of 20 thousand euros to produce a collection that will be showcased next year and will receive further showcasing support by Mercedes-Benz in 2021.
For her menswear collection Emma worked with straw, linen and raffia and used traditional techniques like crochet.
The Chloé prize went to the French designer Marvin M`Toumo who will receive a grant of 20 tousand euros for a trio consisting of pleated trousers, a bra and a jacket.

This article was written by Veronika Dorosheva

Images: Étienne Tordoir / CatwalkPictures via 2e Bureau

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