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The Scouting Tour

It's quiet and tranquil inside, and it's midnight. My eyes stare out of the car door window at the darkness while the driver is taking us home from Venice Airport. Lamp posts and cars and stars. In the meantime I think back to the ITS#SIX Scouting Tour as a series of flash-backs. My memory works through images and there are loads of images in my mind now: Three packed and intense weeks around the world to meet students and view their projects. I can see our arrival in London on 4 March. We're in Liverpool Street Station and we've got our luggage and are almost out of the station when an old skinny lady on our right hand side wearing a plain grey trenchcoat starts yelling: "FUCK!!!DAMN IT!! OH, DAMN IT!!!" At the same time in a bar on the other side of the street, a whole crowd shouts with joy. It's Sunday, and it's Premiere League time. A soccer team has scored so someone's happy and someone's angry. We are caught in the middle, and it's the beginning of a demanding week in London! I can see Daniel Ivarsson (ITS#FIVE Diesel Award winner) in the Diesel flagship store presenting the outcome of his prize to the press invited to the presentation. His Diesel Collection is really great and captures the essence of the concept he presented at ITS so well.

Another image I see is the inside of a gorgeous house full of colours and objects of all kinds. Wood parrots, metal parrots, paintings of parrots as well as a collection of all sorts of images of cats. Cats printed on the carpet, cats in paintings on the walls and eight (or was it nine? I lost count) real cats placidly roaming around the house. A house packed with objects, colour, people and cats. And in the middle of it all, stands wonderful Nathalie Gibson (textile print expert and lecturer at Central Saint Martins) and her husband, who were so kind to welcome us into their house for dinner with many exquisite guests. I picture a restaurant in Lonsdale Road and the faces of Terry and Trisha Jones, who always amaze us with their humbleness despite the that fact they are giants. Fashion editor Erika Kurihara is there too, winner of ITS#FOUR Marcus Wilmont with his girlfriend Maki and winners of ITS#FIVE Daniel Ivarsson and Aitor Throup are there too. Simply put, it was a fantastic dinner with fantastic people. It always makes us feel good to know that Terry and Trisha grant us their time and interest. To know they value ITS is really important for us! A lovely image now: Aitor Throup, Claire, Mayur and us all together at the same table at Aitor's place having dinner. Barbara is the "chef de la soiree" and you can clearly see her in one of the pictures preparing the ingredients of a super tasty pasta sauce while Aitor takes note of the ingredients asking "and what is...thiiiiiis? and thiiiiiis?" and Mayur stares as if to say "Aitor, you'll never get it as tasty". Not only do I see the evening and the time spent with them but I can also feel the warmth and the beauty of their souls every time I think of them. I miss them and at the same time I carry them within me. Aitor is a tremendously gifted human being with a crystal-clear soul and amazing talent, and he has found two other amazing souls whom he can trust. He has it all: talent, love and a real friend, no bogus. Speaking with them about projects for the future or simply about life in general was the height of the scouting tour, pure joy that makes you hate the clock, as you did when you were 5 years old and the sun would go down on a warm summer day at the beach and you wanted more of it. My memory goes to Antwerp now, to a restaurant called Hungry Henrietta. We're together with professors Patrick de Muynck and Walter Van Beirendonk from Hogeschool Antwerpen and they are telling us about how the structure of the schools in Europe is changing due to new laws involving student exchange programs. What happens is that schools like Antwerp will be forced to change their educational system to adhere to a system that will eventually bring all schools in Europe to the same level. They are very worried since these changes could seriously damage the quality of an educational system they worked hard to obtain, and we agree with them: Schools are not all the same and every school should maintain the right to choose it's own educational program structure. This is a very important issue which should be discussed more. We also met with Demna Gvasalia, (ITS#THREE Collection of the Year) in Antwerp. I can see him waving goodbye from the end of the street as we open the hotel door after an evening spent together. He is another very special human being whose sensibility and heart are too big for this world. We spent too little time together but the cruel rule of the scouting tour is that you have to respect the schedule and you can't stop for long. Now I see the room at the hotel in Amsterdam where we met the Dutch students from several different schools, and Barbara sitting at her chair giving every single student her undivided attention. She met with more than sixty students in one day...I don't know how she did it, but she did. She went through every single page of every single portfolio that was presented to her. I can picture a film of that day in my mind in fast-forward and there's only one thing in the same place all day...and that's Barbara. Chairs move, people come and go, suitcases open and close revealing outifts and portfolios, cups of tea come in, I can see me going in an out checking if the next one's ready and I can see the daylight changing as the hours go by. And Barbara is always there sitting on her chair being pleasant with everyone while the world changes around her. It is an amazing memory... Flash backs and images start going faster now: there's a catwalk for the graduate fashion show in Basel, Switzerland (thanks Matthias Georg for the invitation!), then there's the inside of a train carriage of a train heading towards Kolding in Denmark and the Danish countryside out of the windows while we open our computer and check the e-mails coming from the office. I see another restaurant table. This time we're in Copenhagen and I see journalists from the Danish press sitting in front of us. We had a really great conversation with them about the up and coming fashion situation in Denmark and we believe we have found some new friends (thank you Louise and Sofia for organising everything!). I see the Art Museum in Copenhagen and Laura Baruel's exhibition with her beautiful clothes, the evolution of the concept she presented at ITS#FOUR. I can see the three of us sitting at the cafe of the museum with a cup of hot chocolate, talking about other ITS finalists.

I see the black rocks and a moon landscape now. Above us there are clouds coming and going. It rains, then a heavy wind blows, then it starts to snow, then the sun comes out. And it all happens in ten minutes. Welcome to Iceland! I can see the faces of the amazingly kind taxi drivers of Reykjavik talking to us about the history of this country and of how the Icelandic people are known as "the latinos of the north" for their friendliness towards foreigners. I can see Sara and her beautiful shop "Naked Ape" in the Reykjavik city center. Then there's a blue lagoon surrounded by white vapours and black lava rocks with warm thermal waters coming from the inside of the earth where we spent an afternoon. I can see Linda (head of the fashion school there) holding her beautiful eight month old baby Jeannedarc. I see so many kids and lots of young mothers and very careful and attentive fathers. Icelandic people have a very strong sense of family. The driver tells us we have just entered Trieste. We're back home. The last images that run in my mind go faster and faster and whirl around in my head. They are the most important of all: I see the faces of the hundreds of students we met in the six countries we visited. Royal College of Art, Central Saint Martins, London College of Fashion, University of Northampton, Hogeschool Antwerpen, Artez, FIA, Maastricht, Arnhem, AMFI, HKU, Hochschule fur Gestaltung und Kunst Basel, Kolding Designskole, Denmarks Designskole, Iceland Academy of the Arts...Smiling faces and worried faces, humble faces and headstrong faces...We took pictures of all of them. We had a small blackboard with us on which we would write their names and take a picture of the student together with the blackboard, just like a mug shot in the police department. ITS under arrest. Do not speak, let your creativity speak for you. I can see the whole sequence of mug shots we've taken, one after the goes faster and faster and something moves inside of me. So many dreams and so many projects and ideas and creativity...

The car stops in front of my house. I say goodbye to Barbara and step out. Tomorrow we will be back at work in the office as usual. I grab my luggage from the trunk and walk towards my front door. It's windy, the air simply smells of home and while the car drives away taking Barbara to her house, my hand holding the key stops right in front of the keyhole as a tear runs down my cheek. I feel tired but very thankful to have had this experience once again. Very thankful... We would like to thank all the people who made it possible, once again, and those who welcomed us in the various countries. Thank you to all members of the ITS staff involved in the organisation and to all the teachers of the schools we went to. I'd love to write down all the names and maybe I could, but what if I miss one? You know who you are and there is no need for names.

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