We're in Trieste airport and it's Sunday 10 March. We've got our boarding pass in our hands. We travel light, just hand luggage. The days when we used to travel with huge cases stored with cables, wires, projectors for presentations, dozens of posters and t-shirts and much more, seem far away. In those days we would travel not just to interview students but to present ITS in schools which did not know about the event. It appears now we're known enough around the world to not have to do presentations anymore...
We were naive in the beginning, at least more than we are now. The Scouting Tour (since we hop from town to town like a band on tour...) in the early years would be a mix of emotions bringing butterflies to our stomach. The expectation, the fear of finding ourselves speechless in front of hordes of young students. Also the foolishness and lightheartedness that we would have, travelling around the world for such an exciting objective: supporting young talents yet to be discovered. It was and still is a one-of-a-kind treasure hunt.
A bit of the lightheartedness and foolishness might have gone - parts of it still remain, you should see the junk food we're capable of eating in our hotel rooms when travelling - but the expectation, that's still all there. Like gold miners we look forward to spotting out the undiscovered talent and hope we'll sit in front of someone who will give us goose bumps and make us think "we found it". Creativity definitely is a drug and once you've experienced it will stick on you for a lifetime.
There's so many past finalists based in London that we could not but organise a time & place to meet them all, right after we had checked in our hotel. We asked advice to all of them for a cozy place not far from our hotel where we could meet and Emma Montague came up with the perfect place, a 5-minute walk from where we were staying. We had such an amazing time, chatting the evening away with all those who showed up!! It would be a pity not to mention them all: thanks Taeseok Kang, Charlotte Valkeniers, Volker Koch, Dinu Bodiciu , Ana Rajcevic and last but not least of course Haizhen Wang! Many others couldn't make it and we really missed them, among other Tomasz Donocik, Daniel Ivarsson, Aitor Throup , Yang Du , Ali Forbes and Justin Smith . We always have a reason to return to London, that's for sure. Anyway Sunday evening was the perfect beginning for our Scouting Tour and it definitely put us in a good mood.
Monday was time to work and our first school on calendar was Royal College of Art. Warmly welcomed as usual by Wendy Dagworthy (Head of Fashion Dept.) and Heather Holford (Fashion dept. Tutor & Project Manager ), we also had the chance to chat with Menswear Professor Ike Rust and Knitwear & Knitted textiles responsible Sarah Dallas. Meeting their students and listening to the projects they are working on is always an incredible pleasure for us. Felix Chabluk Smith for instance struck us for his amazing research in historical menswear codes and his fascinating approach to print design. Among others was also Signe Hurtigkarl, twin sister (literally identical...) of Sarah V. Hurtigkarl , winner of the SWAROVKSI ELEMENTS Award in 2011 together with Raluca Grada . And we were quite impressed by a couple of jewelry students too, as Sophie Boons who caught our attention with her brilliant nanogold inspiration and how she included it in her jewelry pieces. And we met with last year's jewelry finalist Anabela Chan, who is in her 2nd year now and judging from what we saw could easily enter the short list of finalists who were selected twice...
We had an entire day at London College of Fashion too, where Professor Dai Rees, responsible for the MA fashion footwear and fashion artefacts department made us feel at home, as he always does. Darren Cabon (Menswear & Womenswear) and Dennic Chunman (Pattern Cutting) too popped in to say hello. A special friendship bonds us since they were both finalists in the competition that Barbara used to organise before starting ITS. We also had the opportunity to quickly meet with the new responsible for the Menswear and Womenswear students, Nigel Luck.
As for our interviews with RCA accessories students, the YKK team joined us in our interviews with the footwear and fashion artefacts students. YKK product experts Fabio Talpo and Sabine Bourgeau gave all candidates information on the infinite possibilities with fastenings for their YKK projects, a mandatory part of the application for ITS ACCESSORIES, while renowned designer and YKK consultant Kei Kagami would dive deep into their projects suggesting possibilities and providing precious advice.
And it wasn't just the students' interviews we had to deal with. We had a crew from District MTV filming us all day long! Defining itself as "the home of pop style" it is a program intended to show style through the MTV lens, by curating new trends and fresh content from global tastemakers, delivering unrivalled access to people and events, unearth new talent and delve into the MTV archive. Well if it's about unearthing new talent they are definitely in the right place! And not only did they film our meetings and the beautiful students' work, they also interviewed Barbara about ITS and you can actually see a picture here!
Next stop, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design where we had the opportunity to sit down for a wonderful chat with Professor Louise Wilson OBE, Course Director MA Fashion, after meeting with her students. Elisa Palomino (BA Course Fashion Print Pathway Leader), greeted us upon arrival and greatly helped us out in organising our may interviews with the BA fashion students. We also met with the BA jewelry students of Professor Caroline Broadhead and we must send a huge thanks to Lin Cheung too (Senior Lecturer BA Jewelry Design), who was so kind as to prepare our interviews schedule. Students like Stephanie Bila and Benita Gikaite definitely made us jump on the chair from joy... Our travels took us out of the UK after visiting Central Saint Martins and from London we flew to Belgium, precisely Antwerp, where 3rd and 4th year students at Hogeschool Antwerpen were waiting for our arrival. Antwerp is another town we always love to go to, there are some friends there who we love to meet. Legendary designer Walter Van Beirendonck heads the school and follows the third-year students (while the 4th year ones are followed by Dirk Van Saene) and has always been very kind and supportive. Past finalist Marisa Leipert, who now teaches at the school, was so kind as to welcome us with some typical Belgian bread. Just to make us feel at home. And what can we say about.
Yvonne De Kock that we still haven't said? Her attention and care for us is always so amazing that we literally feel as if our mother was there, checking and making sure we feel her warmth and attention... It's wonderful knowing you Yvonne, you are special. Lucky people those living by your side.
During our interviews we had the opportunity to meet with some 4th year students we had met the year before, during their 3rd year. It is always exciting to see what has happened to their creativity in a year's time. Apart from the obvious evolution and refinement in their style, sometimes you can see people changing direction entirely from what they were doing before. Others might have perhaps greatly refined their past concept, and so on... During a cold winter day with snow falling outside, we had the privilege of meeting them one by one. A pity that time is always such a tyrant and we couldn't spend more time with each one of them.
... and this of course also applies to all of the students we met this year!
We literally almost missed our plane after leaving Antwerp, due to a driver who missed a couple of intersections. We had to instruct him... think about it, we saw the airport signals, he didn't. And he even had a GPS system! Anyway, we made it just on time even if we lost a couple of papers along the way (we had to re-arrange our hand luggage in order to pass security controls and we were such in a hurry that eventually something slipped out and was lost...), and finally got on the plane, not without some stressful moments...
Now that we're back in the office and portfolios are flooding in by the hundreds, one of the most exciting moments will be to open the portfolios of the people we met, and remember them. As you all know well by now, we are not responsible for the finalists' selection (Barbara is just one of the jurors that will decide), but we obviously get emotionally tied in some way to those we have met. Because we have seen their dreams in their eyes, and if they are selected we can picture the joy in their face. Or frown if a young student we believed to be exciting does not convince the jury...
All in all, the scouting tour is undoubtedly one of the most exciting moments of the year.