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The ITS#SEVEN Scouting Tour

Every year we take some time in March to travel around the world. We call it the "scouting tour" because we go out to have a look at what the students are working on - we "explore" young creativity - and because we generally travel to lots of different countries, like a rock band on tour...

It's also an excellent occasion to meet with finalists from past editions of ITS, catch up with friends from our network and present/promote our event to those who still don't know us. It's mentally and physically demanding since we hop from one place to the other packing and unpacking every two days or so but it's incredibly rewarding, sometimes in very unexpected ways: you might travel for weeks feeling like "ok, this year it's useless" and then you bump into some creativity genius who gives meaning to everything in 30 seconds.

To give you an idea of this year's tour, here are the best parts organised in diary-style form. Hope you find it tasty...

It's a sunny Sunday and we're headed to London, our first stop. Our plane is in the distance on the runway, shiny and with the belly wide open ready to welcome lots of personal belongings stuffed in purses, backpacks, luggage... We've got less luggage to check in than in the past. The reason is that this tour will be slightly shorter since we have so much to do in the office and can't afford to travel around for too long...
Anyway the program is, as usual, packed. If aliens kidnap us, experiment on our bodies and get rid of us leaving our minds completely empty no worries, we just need to take out our program and read it: everything's written down, from wake up time to every single thing we need to do during the day... nobody beats us when it comes to organisation!

We're on a plane again, on our way to reach Antwerp. The weather is crap but who cares when London left us with so many special memories? Print teacher Nathalie Gibson welcoming us with a huge smile at Central St Martins, dressed in a triumph of colours that can't but turn your day into a gorgeous day. Pillow fights (let's call them that...) and conversations in the hotel room with Angelo Pannofino from GQ who followed us together with photographer Ben Rayner for three days to document our tour and collect material for an article on ITS. Wonderful Wendy Dagworthy, Heather Holford and Ike Rust from Royal College of Arts.

Crazy, wild geniuses that live in a world of their own made of struggles to turn their raving creativity into amazing outfits, giving us goose bumps at every flip through their portfolios. People puzzled when we remember their faces and projects from last year: "But how do you remember me since we met for something like 5 minutes a year ago in the middle of hundreds of other students?" Claire Douglas at London College of Fashion handling our stay there so beautifully.

The visit we paid to Daniel Ivarsson at his work place and the great laughs at dinner afterwards with the tastiest veggie burger ever, talking about motorcycle trips from London to Trieste. Our usual dinner at Aitor Throup's place, the privilege of wearing one of his outfits, the rage of wanting to stop time and not being able to. The dinner with all the finalists...

Since there's lots of finalists from past editions working in London, we thought it would have been nice to gather them all for dinner... who would have imagined it would have turned out to be such powerful proof that we're not wasting our time on this crazy ITS, something to remember whenever we feel fed up or worn out? James Long, Justin Smith, Heather Blake, Daniel Ivarsson, Martine Jarlgaard, Anna Sheldon, Takaharu Osako, Haizhen Wang, Aitor Throup, Adrian Sommerauer. All these years of hard work summed up in their faces, in the manifestations of love and care for Barbara... Seven years of ITS. Hours that warp into minutes, and seconds that become endless slow-motions of a movie. Little earthquakes of pleasure that crack our brain wrinkles forever. Yes, it does make sense.

11 MARCH We're not used to strong chilly wind in Antwerp but the weather is very bad in all of Europe - storms and hurricanes - so better not complain! Yvonne at Antwerp Royal Academy of Arts is so beautifully kind with us every time. We had dinner with her, Patrick de Muynck and Walter Van Beirendonck at a beautiful restaurant in the old part of the city.
Among many familiar faces from last year, we also met with ITS#SIX winner Ek Thongprasert who showed us where he's at with his new collection... he left us utterly speechless, there is no way to describe his genius. Also Heaven Tanudiredja paid us a short visit bringing with him a wonderful present: a necklace made with his amazing hands that Barbara wore for the rest of the tour.
We're in our hotel room now and Demna Gvasalia just left. He came to our hotel to spend some time with us before we leave for Brussels. Friends like Demna are diamonds in the dirt.

13 MARCH What a gorgeous sunny day out of the airplane window! This tour began and ended with the sun, a good sign. Half an hour and we'll land back home...
Yesterday we met with the students of La Cambre, in Brussels. Lots of wind, like Antwerp! We could hear it blowing especially in the room where the meeting was held, on the top floor of the school's building (what a beautiful view of the city!). Some great projects warmed us enough to forget the chilly weather. And we met Nicolas di Felice, finalist from last year! He's graduating now and his new collection is very, very interesting.

In the evening we had dinner with press from Belgium and Holland at a cosy restaurant. We evidently communicate lots of passion when we talk about ITS and the new projects we are working on because everyone stayed until late listening to Barbara talk about the ITS#ARCHIVE and the editorial project "The Seismographer". Photographer Sonny Vandevelde captured our attention and made us laugh so much with his Australian adventures! He took such amazing pictures at ITS#SIX. Before leaving he gave Barbara his entire pack of lemon sweets since he noticed she was a little bit ill. We love people like him. It's called being sensitive...
The captain just asked us to fasten our seat belts. We wonder if our luggage has arrived safely since we've had some bad adventures in the past... It's really a beautiful Thursday afternoon. Ok Ms. Flight Attendant, I'm putting my tray table in the upright position, I'm ready for landing! Would prefer to travel on but it's true, we really do have a lot to do in the office. But not this afternoon at least...

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