British designer Ifeanyi Okwuadi wins fashion prize at 2021 Hyères Festival
The 36th edition of the Hyères International Fashion and Photography Festival ended on Sunday October 17 with the awards ceremony that was staged in the packed forecourt of Villa Noailles, the festival’s venue. This year more than ever, the French fashion competition showcased the keen interest emerging designers have for sustainable development, with plenty of original creations and solutions, among which the winners were picked. British designer Ifeanyi Okwuadi was awarded the Première Vision fashion prize by the jury chaired by Louise Trotter, in recognition of his highly sophisticated menswear collection.
Okwuadi, 27, was born in London to a mother from Sierra Leone and a Nigerian father. He won over the jury with a sophisticated collection that offered a fresh take on the classic menswear wardrobe, incorporating references to childrenswear such as cropped shorts, a v-neck sweater whose neckline was braided with yellow and neon-pink scoubidou string, and the use of small model cars as brooches.
To create his collection, Okwuadi drew inspiration from the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp in Berkshire, UK, set up in 1981 to protest against the installation of nuclear missiles. Hence the sweaters’ loose necklines, a reference to the police forces’ manhandling the protesters and pulling them by their clothes. One of the jackets featured a tightly knitted front, in a barrier-like pattern, while a softer protective weave was used on the inside.
Okwuadi’s outfits were all highly crafted on the front, leaving just the lining and the garment's inner structure at the back. “I want to show the clothes’ inner structure, the materials, the seams, the quality. It’s a question of honesty,” Okwuadi told FashionNetwork.com, underlining his passion for research and storytelling.
After graduating from Ravensbourne University London, Okwuadi decided to apprentice with Savile Row tailors, and worked for three years at Cad & The Dandy, before doing a master’s course in menswear at Central Saint Martins. “I'm focused on tailoring," said Okwaudi, who is keen to “make his voice heard, bring his work to the public through his own label, while working for an established house.”
The fashion accessories prize, awarded by the jury chaired this year by Christian Louboutin, went to Capucine Huguet, 25, for her inventive jewellery collection inspired by the climate emergency. Huguet, who travelled to the Arctic with group of glaciologists two years ago, created a collection of rings inspired by melting ice, for example by icebergs or the geometric shapes of snowflakes.
Huguet studied at the Advanced School of Jewellery in Paris, and did stints at Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, later specialising with a master's degree at Central Saint Martins in London. For Huguet, making jewellery is a way of expressing her personality, and the jewels she designs can also have environmental value.
The Hermès Fashion Accessories prize, sponsored by the luxury label and first introduced last year, went to Yann Tosser-Roussey, 30. An engineer who studied at Studio Berçot and has worked with leading labels like Kenzo, he launched a year ago his own brand Roussey, an interesting 3D-printed jewellery concept. Another jewellery enthusiast, Japanese designer Rayna Amuro, took the public’s prize with her delicate silver and wicker creations.
The 2021 Hyères Festival, founded and directed by Jean-Pierre Blanc and chaired by Pascale Mussard, also awarded the Chloé fashion prize, to designer Elina Silina, 33. Silina comes from Riga, Latvia, and stood out for her experimental knitwear work, creating crocheted clothes by using traditional skills handed down by her mother and grandmother. She experimented on yarn tension, gauge variation and yarns blends to invent a new way of knitting.
The 19M Prize for fine craftsmanship, introduced by Chanel in 2019, was awarded to Thai designer Rukpong Raimaturapong, 31, who dazzled the jury with his virtuoso work on colours and silk. Trained in visual arts and graphic design, Raimaturapong had until now treated fashion, his secret passion, as a hobby. He made his Hyères debut with panache.
In 2021, the Hyères Festival also awarded a new sustainability prize, the Mercedes-Benz prize for a sustainable collection, which went to Finnish designer Sofia Ilmonen, 34. A graduate of Aalto University in Helsinki, Ilmonen adopts a circular fashion approach and produces her creations, notably long romantic dresses, out of silk organza or cotton poplin squares which can be assembled and disassembled as needed.
The squares are hemmed with button holes and can be joined together by mini buttons. They are also equipped with laces and drawstrings, allowing the clothes to fit more or less snugly, depending on preferences. The clothes can be manufactured directly by customers, thanks to inch-perfect patterns and precise instructions.
The City of Hyères award went to Swiss designer Adeline Rappaz, who made a strong impression with her exuberant baroque-punk collection, whose clothes were made entirely of recycled materials, each with a special story.
As for photography, the jury chaired by Dominique Issermann awarded the main prize to Emma Charrin & Olivier Muller, while Sergei Pavlov won both the American Vintage award and the public’s prize.
The Hyères Festival’s 36th edition marked a return to normality after a long hiatus due to the pandemic. Both the general public and industry professionals attended in numbers - even though participation was lower than in previous editions - and enjoyed the festival’s various collateral events. Due to major renovation work planned at Villa Noailles next year, the festival's 2022 edition will be staged once again in mid-October.
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