Sustainability at the forefront of the 36th Hyères Festival

Sustainability was on everybody’s mind and rewarded with a new prize at this year’s Hyères Fashion and Photography Festival, the oldest competition rewarding young talents freshly out of universities from around the world. The ten competing designers received a special mentorship in the run up to the event to push the boundaries of sustainable materials and innovation.

Morgane Nyfeler

By Morgane Nyfeler11 novembre 2021

This year, the Hyères Festival has created a new prize dedicated to sustainability (Fiona Torre)

For its 36th edition, the festival was forced to be rescheduled in October – with an exhibition running until end of November – due to Covid-19 after skipping a year in 2020. Lacoste’s creative director Louise Trotter was heading this year’s Jury, including the likes of footwear designer Christian Louboutin and photographer Dominique Isserman, and acknowledged the finalists’ deep-rooted concern for the environment, which led them to embrace sustainability and recycling even more as a result of the pandemic. “It is a very challenging time for young designers, not only in how they have to be working, but also [because of] the climate from an economical and political point of view,” Trotter told Vogue Business.

A new prize honouring sustainable fashion for the first time

Yann Tosser-Roussey, winner of the Hermès Prize, creates 3D printed jewellery from PLA, a polymer produced from renewable resources such as plant waste (Clément Philippe)

Sponsored by Mercedes-Benz, the Sustainability Prize supports up-and-coming designers that have incorporated ethical and sustainable practices into the heart of their work and are committed to finding creative solutions to design in a responsible way. This initiative is also backed up by Fashion Open Studio, a showcasing and mentoring platform launched by the world’s largest fashion activism movement Fashion Revolution. Over the course of the summer, two sustainability sessions took place digitally with the whole group of designers and was led by Fashion Revolution’s co-founder and creative director Orsola de Castro and special projects curator Tamsin Blanchard. The focus of the training was put on transparency and sustainable materials as well as inclusivity and technical innovation, from building a sustainable supply chain to novel approaches to fabric creation especially when it comes to recycling and upcycling. “This year’s mentorship was potentially one of the most exciting in my entire career! Firstly seeing how all designers approached ethics and sustainability from the get-go, and then watching them deepen their commitment after the first mentoring session,” said de Castro. “The level of work and creative exploration was truly outstanding.”

Young designers’ creative approach to responsible fashion

It is for her approach to minimising fabric waste through transformative garments that Finnish designer Sofia Ilmonen unanimously won the Sustainability prize and received a grant of €20’000 from Mercedes-Benz. Her collection ‘Same Same But Different’ utilises a modular design concept that allows each garment to be transformed as the taste and needs of the wearer change over time.

Finnish designer Sofia Ilmonen unanimously won the sustainability award (Juho Huttunen)
Adeline Rappaz, a former student of the Geneva School of Art and Design, won the audience's prize for her punk and baroque collection made entirely from recycled materials (Fiona Torre)

“The essential thought at the beginning of the creation process was how the idea of sustainable fashion can be seen as somewhat contradictory, as fashion is about change and sustainability is about longevity and stability,” explains Ilmonen. The designer hence merges these two counterpoints by creating garments with same-sized square modules that are assembled together with a button and loop mechanism allowing endless modifications and adjustments to also fit different body shapes and types. Moreover, her collection employs sustainably-sourced fabrics and vegetable dyes to create rich, intense colours and shows a dedication to craftsmanship with each piece meticulously finished. “I’m planning to launch my brand at the beginning of next year and this award will help me a lot ­– not only with the money but also the mentoring and encouragement will bring my practice even further,” she says.

British designer Ifeanyi Okwuadi, Grand Prix of the Première Vision Jury, celebrated British know-how (Fiona Torre)

As many as seven prizes given by prestigious sponsors were awarded during the four-day long festival covering fashion, accessories and photography. Taking the Première Vision Grand Jury Prize was British designer Ifeanyi Okwuadi who presented a military-inspired menswear collection celebrating the English savoir-faire and heritage of materials such as Harris Tweeds and wool, as well as European linens. Following the mentorship given by Fashion Open Studio, the designer “practically redesigned and developed a whole new collection after the first meeting. This manifested itself in the collection by separating the outer, lining and removing the backs of garments to show the time, work and construction put into making a garment,” explains Okwuadi.

Latvian designer Elina Silina, winner of the Chloé Prize and entitled For Sally, used yarns from her grandmother's wardrobe and second-hand shops (Fiona Torre)

The need for reusing leftover materials and the upcycling aesthetic was strongly felt throughout most of the fashion collections shown during the festival. Latvian designer and winner of the Chloé Prize Elina Silina in particular used yarns from her grandmother’s closet and second-hand shops in her collection ‘For Sally’, and created a crocheted white dress that echoed the style of the French maison. On the other hand, Geneva’s University of Art and Design alumna Adeline Rappaz took home the Public Prize for her punk-meets-baroque collection of garments made entirely from recycled materials.

The jewellery collection of Capucine Huguet, winner of the jury prize (Patrice Maurein)

Sustainability permeated the accessories category of the festival just as much as fashion. When looking at Jury Prize winner Capucine Huguet’s jewellery collection, one can only notice the amount of research and work that went into each intricate and highly detailed piece. Inspired by the ice melt due to climate change in the Artic region, where the designer met up with scientists, each ring highlights this problem and is made on-demand to avoid overproduction, while being crafted only with recycled gold and silver as well as traceable stones. “The Prize has given me a wide media coverage and will enable me to continue creating and bringing awareness towards climate emergency through my brand,” says Huguet.

Elsewhere, the Hermès Prize went to Yann Tosser-Roussey for his otherworldly 3D-printed accessories crafted from PLA, a polymer produced from renewable resources such as vegetable waste. The technology enables him to mould extreme shapes with an original ‘scratched’ texture and push the boundaries of jewellery design and sizing without additional weight. “The festival enabled me to exchange with different people, receive feedback and encouragement on my work and observe their reactions, which opens up perspectives,” reflects the designer.

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