A car with leather seats and a polite, pleasant driver. A sunny day. Our hand luggage in the trunk, our eyes staring outside the window. The Old Fishmarket, the Piazza Unità square facing the sea, the boats in the harbour and the Castle of San Giusto on the hill on the right. The warehouse inside the Old Port, the people walking by the seashore, the highway and the airport. Here we are again. Ten times and still it feels the same.
Funny thing is the mind goes back to the first scouting tour, to the first trip we made to the schools around the world to present this new international competition for young fashion designers called ITS. And maybe, that first time we even thought for a second what it would have been like to reach edition number ten and still be travelling to the schools, this time with no need to present ourselves that much (glad we worked well enough to be recognised often now when we travel...), but still eager and addicted to creativity, still expecting the interview with the genius, with the wild creative talent that can make your day and give sense to any effort, challenge or struggle you've been facing up to that very moment.
... Yes, we've struggled.
We've struggled and we've made it up to here, edition number TEN. And there can't be an anniversary of this kind without a Scouting Tour: we travel to the schools, meet with the students who show us their portfolios and what they are up to. Their final year collections, their past work. The best part of the year...
Our hand luggage goes through the security control, a minute for a coffee, we hand in our boarding card and head for a free seat on our flight to London. What a wonderful day for flying.
We've been so lucky with the weather in London in the last couple of years. The taxi driver tells us the usual thing: "you brought good weather!". We hope London brings us good creativity in exchange. Our agenda says the first two days will be at the Royal College of Art, where Fashion Dept. Responsible, Wendy Dagworthy and students’ tutor Heather Holford welcome us warmly as usual. We know very well the room we do the interviews in. It's the same room where we met Aitor Throup for the first time. And Daniel Ivarsson, James Long, Heather Blake. So, positive vibes in here! We are together with Atsuko Furukawa from YKK, since our first day begins with the accessories students.
We had this jewellery designer who came in and wasn't that sure he could apply. He explained he wasn't sure his development process was OK. He explained that as part of his project he was firing golden bullets and obtaining from that "something that looks like jewellery in the end". He showed incredible "living" collars with spiders weaving their webs inside. We were amazed. As we were by the menswear department. Thank you Ike Rust, thank you Heather and thanks to the whole RCA staff for welcoming us so well.
On Tuesday, while we carry on with our RCA interviews, our colleague Lidia heads for Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design for jewellery students interviews organised by teacher Caroline Broadhead (as you know, jewellery this year has its own dedicated competition, so we focused a lot on researching jewellery talents). Tuesday evening we went for a dinner with past finalists Daniel Ivarsson and Tomasz Donocik. They had booked a table at Mildred's, a vegetarian eatery in Soho. Apart from the incredible food quality, going out with Daniel and Tomasz means forgetting all problems and being seriously tempted to party until 4 in the morning. It's always been like that and luckily (or sadly) we live and work in Trieste, otherwise we would have never made it to edition number ten. We would have probably stopped around SEVEN, with a huge, never-ending party. It might happen after TEN but, honestly, we're waiting for Tomasz to win the lottery and save us all...
Wednesday 9th is London College of Fashion day. John Princes Street. Darren Cabon and Dennic Chunman LO welcome us and it's just incredible because in 1994 they were finalists at the international competition Barbara used to organise ages ago!! Young talents that turn into teachers of other young talents. We absolutely love this. We had a whole room at our disposal, with the projects of the accessories and fashion students on tables and on stands for us to view while we interviewed them. We saw incredible collars featured in a video by SHOWstudio, beautiful men's footwear, millinery pieces, amazing neckpieces which were also featured in "The Future of Fashion" exhibition by YKK at St Martins Courtyard during London Fashion Week. We saw wonderfully executed womenswear collections, and also very interesting menswear projects. Again, Atsuko from YKK was with us for the accessories students interviews, this time together with Jonathan Lipitich, who we've been working with for over 5 years now. He is leaving YKK for a career in psychology... we will miss you so much Jon and wish you all the best for this new adventure!! See you in July, by the way!
In the evening we are at SAF Restaurant in Curtain Road, Shoreditch. We have a dinner with Erika Kurihara, her husband Xerxes Cook and Aitor Throup. Amazing food once again (thank you Erika and Xerxes for picking this place, it was awesome)!! Erika and Xerxes showed us the new project they are working on. An incredible, jaw-dropping magazine called POST, entirely developed and conceived just for the ipad. Photoshoots that turn into videos, models that turn into algorithms, pages that are brought to life by a simple touch. A fashion magazine mixed with a movie experience, mixed with a videogame, mixed with a sound experiment... WOW!
Then Aitor drove us back to our hotel on his Land Rover (a functional car for a functional genius). Aitor drives fast and, just like us, he has NO CLUE about directions and would probably get lost - just like we would - if you left him round the corner of his own neighbourhood. His (valuable) excuse is that driving time is very precious and it's better to focus on his own projects rather than directions. Makes sense... it makes the driving experience always new: you never know if you've already been in a street or not...
We had a long conversation with him when we got to our hotel. We parked and talked in the car for about an hour. It always happens with Aitor. We always spend way too little time together and when we do, we just forget about time if it weren't for our eyes falling asleep.
We reached Antwerp and the students of Hogeschool Antwerpen a week later, after attending a press event organised with our partner Diesel (Benelux branch) for ITS#TEN in Amsterdam. As usual, upon our arrival at the school beautiful and smiling Yvonne Dekock welcomes us and makes us feel like home. She is like a mother to the students, follows them throughout all their period here at the school and protects them. Many consider her like some kind of mother, a confidante, one you can rely on for any kind of problem. Several finalists coming from this school consider her among their closest friends. The approach she has is very similar to ours, that is why we get along with her so well.
In Antwerp we meet with third year and MA students. First and second year students would also love to meet with us, but time is a concern and by the way better they develop properly before we interview them. Anyway, third year and MA are really many for a day's interview session: 25 students showed us their projects! Niels Peeraer, one of last year's finalists with his Geysha Collection (click on his name and go have a look at his project if you do not remember it) is graduating this year and showed us another exciting project which we will be more than happy to show to the jury in April.
Our interview day over here in Antwerp, it's time we step on a cab and head for the airport to get our flight back to Trieste. Our handbag is slightly heavier than when we left. That's due to a great number of interview sheets. On each one we've scribbled our impressions about the designers we met. They will be very helpful when we start viewing the portfolios to remind us properly about everyone we met.
Back in the office, a quick check to the number of entries up to know: hundreds and hundreds, and there's another two weeks to go for fashion, accessories and jewellery, and over three weeks for photography. It makes us smile because most of the project arrive always last minute. There is going to be a huge amount of portfolios to look at, more than any other past edition. It makes sense: this is a very special anniversary.