We already met, haven't we?
We did meet. Even if you look at us as if we were joking. You can tell from how we are looking at you that this is not a joke. We do remember your face and we do remember your work. We have already flipped through your portfolio and we have already seen your work. We remember. This is part of our job. This is one big part of our job. We always remember and when we don't we are surprised. If we have met and we don't remember your work or your face we are surprised. Just like you are surprised about us remembering. Remembering isn't something we have learned. It's something we always had. We have to, because not everyone around us remembers everything and we must because otherwise it won't work the way it should. We have always faced life hunting for beauty with our eyes and our heart. And there must have been something that struck us in your work or in your eyes or both. We must have seen something beautiful inside you or in your work or both, because we remember you. And we will smile at you because you have brought beauty in our life, no matter the amount. And searching for beauty is our life and fighting for beauty is our job.
We have packed our suitcases on a Sunday morning. A sunny, March Sunday morning. We can't say we love to travel, maybe because we have travelled so much. We like our home and we feel so safe in our home. But we have travelled to India, Japan, Denmark, Iceland, USA, Cuba, Brazil, Israel, France, Spain, Germany, New Zealand, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Croatia... We have tracked the scent of beauty for years and years now and yes, we feel a little bit tired. But we have never and will never give up hunting. So we packed our suitcases once again, on a sunny March Sunday morning. We stepped into a car and then we walked into an airport and we stepped into a plane and we landed in London.
In London Vladimiro and Matteo from Diesel joined us at the hotel. They will follow us during most of the tour to see with their own eyes some of the beauty we find for the first time.
We do all we can to catch up with friends when we travel. Eight editions of ITS has produced a very long list of friends (luckily) and we do our best but it's always difficult to meet with everyone and inevitably we miss someone, because they are not in town when we are there or because we have a crazy schedule... but we had dinner with ITS#EIGHT (and ITS#NINE) juror Mandi Lennard on Sunday evening and it was beautiful. Mandi knows our work and loves the way we do it. She is a very busy woman yet she found the time to dine with us. And we had the chance to spend some precious time together.
We slept and we woke up and we had breakfast and we hopped into a cab and we arrived at the Royal College of Art. The main door, the usual door we have used all these years, was locked so we walked around the building and we entered from behind and said "Hello" to the man at the reception and we said "Heather Holford from the Fashion department is waiting for us". Take the elevator, seventh floor, first door on the left. Thank you we very well know it we've been here so many times in the past. Our eyes search for beauty but they also search for memories just like all eyes do. And there are plenty of memories in this school. So many good memories that inevitably a hint of a smile appears on our face, as we pop out of the elevator and open the door and Heather at the same time opens the door of her office too and comes towards us to greet us with a big smile on her face.
Heather always prepares a room for us to meet with the students. We spent two days at the school and it was a very good place to hunt for beauty. We saw wonderful hats and beautiful jewellery and marvellous clothes and met wonderful young talents. Some were extravagant and some were shy and some were past finalists of ITS. Yes, there were Marielle Van De Ven and Cecilie Rosted Bahnsen from ITS#SEVEN who are now doing their MA there. Some students were exuberant and incredibly smiling while some were afraid we might not like their work but they quickly understand that we are not there to judge, we are there to listen to what they want to tell us. We are there to feed ourselves through our eyes. We look at everything they have to show us and we try to understand everything they tell us. And also Jonathan Lipitch from YKK joined us that day to take a look at the work of the accessories students with us.
After our first day at Royal College we hopped in a cab and in half an hour we were in front of a door and the door opened and in front of us stood such a smiling handsome young man who said "Ciaao Brother, Ciaao Sister". And it was Aitor Throup (ITS#FIVE) and we were at home...
Baby Bramble is not a baby anymore but we turned into babies when we saw her. Forget time and forget stress and forget why you are looking for beauty everywhere because there she is. "Roooar!" What is this sound, Bramble? That's a lion. A lioooon. A lioooon. Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are. When the blazing sun is gone Aitor knows and Clare knows they will only need to look back at Bramble's eyes and the sun will be there again forever. And we can wear the anniversary goggle jacket or talk about the first commercially available Aitor pieces and the England Away shirt presented by Kasabian. But it's "na-night Bramble" that sticks in our minds. "Na-night " and a tiny little hand waving at us and a tiny little smiling angel hiding behind the wide shoulders of her wonderful father... Na-night Bramble. Mummy and daddy and ITS think about you, while it's time for us to go back to the hotel and have a sleep before our second day at RCA.
We had two wonderful lunches at the school. We met with Wendy Dagworthy (Head of the Fashion Department) and Ike Rust (Head of Menswear) who gave us a wonderful short lesson on the paintings in the lecture room of the restaurant. And we met David Kappo (menswear teacher who also teaches at Central Saint Martins) and had lunch with Tristan Webber (womenswear teacher) who cut his moustache, and with illustrator Julie Verhoeven who had a wonderful necklace with a golden pencil and we looked for her drawings on the internet and it was such a successful hunt for beauty... And Heather was always our host as usual and what a wonderful host, and she took us for a short trip of the fashion department since we had Vladimiro and Matteo from Diesel who had never been to the school.
And on one of these two mornings the fire alarm went off and we were interviewing a footwear student who used to study physics before getting into shoes, and she abruptly (well, rightly of course) stopped explaining her project and said "should we leave?" and she opened the door of the office and asked the staff there "should we leave?" and she left. She left her portfolio and all her project there, stood up and left. And everyone was leaving quietly and in an orderly fashion down the stairs as the fire alarm went DRIIIIINNNN!!!! But we are Italians and it took some time before we looked at each other and said "should we leave?" and we didn't leave anything there, we grabbed all our things and our bags and our notebooks and only then did we finally leave.
... And everybody from the Royal College including us was in the street that morning, in front of the Royal Albert Hall for 10 minutes or so... And it was freezing outside, and we were there with them and we were remembering it had already happened in the past, the same thing during another Scouting Tour, several years before...
After our second day at Royal College we went back to the hotel and got ready for a couple of friends coming in for a drink. We won't tell you as we usually do from which edition of ITS each of them comes. They are part of the ITS family and that's enough for us, and if you need you just need to click on their name and discover a little bit of their lives as designers.
8pm and Weronika Lesniak arrives. And she is followed by Benjamin Shun Lai Ng and Tomasz Donocik and Daniel Ivarsson. And there is also Takaharu Osako who already had quite an aggressive aperitif with some clients and was very smiling and very relaxed taking fake pictures with a funny little toy camera, and Mason Jung who just finished an internship at Maison Martin Margiela and Haizhen Wang. We had a drink and time flew by too fast. It always does when things are beautiful. Little time but precious time that leaves vivid memories like scents do.
... And after that we went to bed and slept and woke up and hopped into a cab and went to Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design...
This really might be the last time we see the Charing Cross Road location. The school is moving to a new building but it seems (and we had already wrote this last year) that not everyone is happy about it especially the fashion department. There is a lot of history in this school and it might look like an old and wrinkly old man but an old and wrinkly old man has so many stories to tell... We arrived at the school and peeped through a door where the Head of BA Fashion Department Willie Walters was and she smiled and stood up and came to us for a warm hello. And her assistant Maria Nishio welcomed us and took us to a wonderful lab room where a couple of students were quietly working at their toiles while we started our interviews.
And we saw amazing print designs and incredible experimentations and jaw-dropping clothes made from padded hairpins (yes, we have a picture to prove it...) and some students opened secret wooden boxes with miniature apartments inside and some came in with 1950s paper suitcase stuffed with printed fabric samples as if they had stepped out of the past. And time flew by so fast.
The following day we visited the MA Fashion course installation on the third floor and met with strong Louise Wilson (Head of MA Fashion) who hates this crazy habit that people have today of taking pictures of everything they see and throwing it on facebook or twitter or whatever and we see her point. She wants to preserve her students and protect them and their work, which has a value and if people want to see it they need to come. And we agree and see her point, even if we love to see creativity at everyone's disposal.
Then it was purple hair and unrivalled elegance. Is this a good way to sum up Natalie Gibson? She is the Head of the Print Design department at Saint Martins and she is an angel mixed with all of the most extravagant and reinvigorating colours one can think of. Her smile will make you melt and if you don't believe in beauty anymore you just need to step in her office and look at her and understand you are out of your mind. A breed apart, a race of her own, a breath of fresh air. You say uniqueness and there she is. We have already said this, we love you Natalie.
... Bye bye Natalie as we hop in a cab and head for London College of Fashion where another beautiful human being we had never met before is waiting for us...
We arrive at London College and a door opens and there stands a smile and behind that is Dai Rees, Head of the MA Fashion Footwear and Fashion Artefacts department of the school. We immediately understand we are in front of a wonderful person. We can spot kindness miles away, that's another thing we've learned in all these years. And Dai Rees is kindness personified, with a wonderful relationship with his students. And also Jonathan Lipitch from YKK joined us to take a look at Dai Rees's students’ work with us.
Dai took us through a visit of the department's facilities, wonderful labs where the students can experiment everything that can be experimented with shoes and leather and fashion artefacts. A perfect combination of teaching and practicing what they teach. We then went into a spacious room and sat down and prepared to meet with the students. And our eyes eager for beauty as usual saw wonderful shoes and beautiful bags and heels that turn into jewellery and necklaces and rings and bracelets, and Dai Rees told us about how big Heather Blake (ITS#FIVE) is and we mean big, she's supposed to be giving birth these days and she most probably already has!!! We want to see your baby Heather!!!
... It is a pity we didn't have more time to spend at London College of Fashion this time, but our schedule is tight and by the way, even if it was just for a few hours it was an amazing beauty hunt. Our eyes and hearts were very happy as we waved goodbye to smiling Dai Rees who we will not forget, headed for London City Airport where a plane for Antwerp is waiting for us... Goodbye London...
Thursday evening and we land in Antwerp after an hour's flight. A good sleep and Friday morning arrives. We walk to Hogeschool Antwerpen and "Hello we are from ITS and Yvonne de Cock is waiting for us". Elevator, fifth floor, go through the door in front of you. Yes thanks, we know that so very well after so many years.
And we don't know why but the whole tour was like that: a door opens or as in this case an elevator door opens and there's a smiling face waiting for us. And this time it's Yvonne, wonderful Yvonne that makes us feel at home and we talk of ourselves with her and her embrace is warm like that of a mother. And she is a mother to her students. Teachers at Hogeschool Antwerpen are very careful at protecting the students' creativity and that's what the Head of the Fashion department Walter Van Beirendonck tells us as we prepare for yet another interview day with young fashion designers.
And it was another wonderful interview day, with hands unfolding books full of dreams and drawings and sketches, full of creativity that turns from mind into paper and into clothes. With eyes passionately describing the hard work behind a seam or a pleat, or why and how a certain treatment was made. After a quick lunch break with Yvonne we started again and our eyes registered everything before the evening arrived and the last interview. We left the school together with Yvonne who took us for a coffe and then for a walk to the concept store RA, owned by a former Antwerp student. The store has a small and wonderful café and look who's there at the table! Australian photographer Sonny Vandevelde eagerly waiting for his laptop to process the pictures and enable him to leave for the supermarket before it closes, for a last dinner in Antwerp before leaving for some months to go back to Australia after a crazy work period. The RA shop showcases several ITS finalists' work like the jewellery of Heaven Tanudiredja (ITS#FIVE and ITS#SIX), the latest collections of Mikio Sakabe (ITS#FIVE) and Elise Gettliffe (ITS#SEVEN and ITS#EIGHT), and Helena Lumelsky whom we met twice as a student and we really loved her work but she never made it to the finals and we told her in person we always hoped the jury would pick her, because we stumbled upon her at RA. And then we had to leave so we gave a big hug to Vladimiro who was not coming with us to Paris.
... And a cab came to pick us up and take us to the Antwerp Centraal where a very fast train took us to Paris...
In Paris it was just for a small stay and we were hosted by French journalist Jerome and by Sinan, and two beautiful white cats named Egée and Echo. We had a wonderful dinner at their wonderful place with wonderful food and wonderful music, and we were joined by Demna Gvasalia (ITS#THREE) who told us about how happy he is about his new job at an important Parisian-based fashion house that has three M in its name composed of three words. It was a magical night where everything was perfect and it was like being at home again and we felt protected and safe as if it was our own place. But time flew by as it usually does when things are beautiful, and soon it was time to pack our suitcases again and say goodbye to Jerome and Sinan and Egée and Echo, and hop in a taxi and go to the airport and fly back to Trieste...
... And land in Trieste where a week of incredible cold had just ended and talk about it with the driver who took us home... The suitcases in the trunk bear no evidence of what we really brought back with us. We already wrote this in the past and it’s true. Dozen’s of memories of faces and projects and moments have added, a wonderful hunt for beauty it was. An incredible hunt and we hope it's not the last.
... We love our home and we feel safe and protected but please let us pack our suitcases again. Once again because searching for beauty and helping it grow is something that comes to us naturally. Now it's time to sit down in our office and start going through the hundreds of projects arriving for ITS#NINE.
... We'll sit down and trust us, we'll open a project and maybe it won't be the first one, nor the second one, nor the third one. But we'll open one project and go through the pictures or look at the passport photo and our finger will point at that image...
"We already met, haven't we?"