194 outfits, 138 accessories and jewelry pieces, over 700 photos, 12,000 portfolios from 80 countries. This is perhaps the shortest definition we can think of for the ITS Creative Archive, intended as a protected reserve for talent and collecting 1 piece of work from each one of the ITS finalists. By doing so, it documents the evolution of young, free creativity in these last twelve years. But the Creative Archive is much, much more.
If you look at it from our point of view, each piece has a story attached to it. The story of young designers - sometimes more than one - with their dreams and ambitions. Designers who now work for renowned brands, or have their own line. Even designers or photographers who have literally dissappeared and changed their lives. To us the archive is a book of fascinating stories, that brings back to our mind faces and specific moments in time... Let us give you a few examples.
Aitor Throup's Shiva outfit from the "When Hoolingans Become Hindu Gods" collection - which granted him two awards at ITS#FIVE - stands as a prelude of what was soon to come: the launch of an impressive eponymous brand that was renowned and acclaimed even before arriving on the market. The level of detail but most importantly the techniques which can be appreciated in this outfit are revolutionary and have been refined by Aitor throughout the years. For instance, if you compare this outfit with pieces that derived from it later on - one for all: the Shiva Skull Bag which was recently released - the evolution and refinement has been amazing. What we see in this outfit is a young Aitor who in 2006 had just graduated from the Royal College of Art, struggling with the task of communicating the huge amount of references and techniques underlying his work. We can almost see him step in the room in that late winter day of March 2006, for his interview with the "ITS people". His career went so far after that.
We've got one of the longest cylinder hats around in our archive and it was conceived by that genius that goes under the name of Justin Smith. This hat is probably one of the less extravagant creations by Justin, of whom Stephen Jones said "It is very refreshing to see a different point of view in millinery at last (...), Justin's hats have culture, and they are original". We can only agree. Justin, just like Aitor and Eli Effenberger is another multi-award winner of ITS. He graduated from Royal College of Art and was the first and only accessories finalist who grabbed a prize which was originally intended for a fashion finalist. One cannot but say that Justin's quite obsessed with the head: his talent originally burst out working as a hairdresser, a profession he hasn't yet abandoned. In his studio he still keeps a hair saloon space. So it's really all about the head for Justin. When we pick up is cylinder in the archive, we also think about his collaboration with Fabrizio Talia on his (es)*Artisanal brand: the hats are of course all conceived and developed by Justin. And just the other day we had a great surprise. While re-organising stuff in the archive we picked up the hat of ITS#FIVE Diesel Award winner Daniel Ivarsson, accidentaly looked inside and found a tag saying "J Smith Esquire", Justin's brand... at a time when we knew nothing about him. Some of the crazy finalists' connections one discovers when rummaging the creative archive.
Sticking to the jewelry field, the great originality of Sarah Hurtigkarl and Raluca Grada, who presented as a team in 2011, could not remain unnoticed and they totally deserved to win the SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS Jewelry Award that year. Theirs was a real new perspective on jewelry, with the pieces that were turned into liquid-like drops worn on bare skin, kind of an optical illusion with a grace and elegance we had rarely encountered. We feel lucky to have such an original concept in our creative archive. No wonder SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS was blown away by it! Sarah and Raluca after ITS decided to carry on their own careers independently. Sarah has a true fascination for spoons, which she declines in several different ways, turning them into other objects. They can become the parts of a silver tulip, rather then parts of a wall installation in a restaurant, or leaves on a tree... she takes the viewer into her own fascinations. Raluca shares that same kind of artistic approach that Sarah has. Both of them seem to be working on installations rather than jewelry and in fact Raluca defines herself as a "jewelry artist and spatial performance designer". This last definition really makes sense when one looks at her last project, "Myst'ifing": a collaboration with stage designer Helen Fitzgerald, with dancer Clara Barbera, it is a costume project for a dance performance taking place under the bright sun in the court yard of an old palace, Palacio Sinel de Cordes, in Lisbon which you can see here.
If we turn our attention to the photography section of our creative archive, among the hundreds of different photos we could talk about there are two which remind us of a couple of out-of-the-ordinary talents. One photo of a little girl in a green lycra dancing outfit, her head apparently bigger than normal, her eyes staring at a frightening crow resting on a hand of we do not know who, is really hard to not notice. Sarah Small is everything except an ordinary photographer. Her "Delirium Constructions" for example are the performative incarnation of her still photographic series and you can only click on the link above to understand for yourself what it is because it would be impossible for us to describe such an emotional and powerful performance. Her photography is a balance of extremes, where elements that appear to be separate from each other coexist in a single, coherent and powerful shot. The "Delirium Constructions" is just one example of Sarah's talent not being limited to one media only: she is also a singer of the "Black Sea Hotel", a New York based Balkan a Cappella trio that recreates traditional Balkan music into a vocal sea, creating their own inimitable, gutsy sound. Check them out on youtube if you've never heard of them, you'll be surprised. Lately Sarah even made her acting debut in "Butter and Latch", a 66-minute horror film / psychological thriller, brilliantly conceived by Director Josephine Decker and filmed by Ashley Connor. In the movie she plays a girl who immerses herself very deeply into the dark underworld of a Bulgarian folk song that she is learning at a Balkan Camp in the Mendocino woodlands... It was launched on September 13th, so you should try and check it out!
There's another set of pictures on the wall of the ITS Creative Archive which cannot remain unnoticed. It's from another photography finalist who definitely does not limit himself to one single media: Dutch past finalist Levi Van Veluw. Since his graduation from ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem Levi has produced multi-disciplinary works that include photographs, videos, sculptures, installations and drawings, often with his own body (preferrably his head) being the focus of the work. We see him as a terrific performance artist and are quite sure you'll agree after watching this. The photography project he presented at ITS in 2007 testimonies the beginning of his self-portraits series which go back to his years at the Art Academy. The works of this period were produced impulsively without any predetermined concept. By experimenting again and again, certain typical traits that define his work in self-portraiture were brought to the forefront: the angle from which the photograph is taken for instance, or the formal approach and the use of his own face and head, as well as the usage of common objects and materials. It is not intended to portray the artist himself but to explore his formal features, the shape and the contour of his head. Levi's body of work is to the least extraordinary and he is also receiving deserved recognition: the Huffington Post recently interviewed him about his latest work, "The Collapse of Cohesion", defining him as "one of the breakout stars in the twenty-first century art world" and nobody can argue about that, it is the simple truth. There's a great way to discover his unbelievable talent and it is through his first publication, "Origin of the Beginning", a survey of all the photographs, drawings, installations, sculptures and videos produced by Levi from 2006 to 2013. A perfect compendium of his body of work, a piece of which is jealously protected in our creative archive.
This is just a glimpse of the treasures we've collected in 12 years of ITS... There's so many we could talk about. We've actually decided to come up with a "chapter 2" article with more Creative Archive memorabilia... so stay tuned since we'll publish it soon.