The artistic drive of the young designers we spot & support all over the world has always been on our radar since ITS is, fundamentally, an ever-growing network that supports creativity. Often, when looking at the projects of our finalists, we do feel like we're admiring an actual piece of art aside from something that has function, that can be used and worn.
Swatch has been called "the biggest art gallery on the wrist" and in its 35-year history has often been collaborating with the worlds of design and the arts. In 2013 we began to brainstorm with Carlo Giordanetti, Creative Director Swatch International, about how we could collaborate together. Focusing on the most artistic-driven young talents who apply for ITS simply sounded like the perfect way to go. Throughout these years we had the opportunity and pleasure to work side by side with Carlo side by side, witnessing his ability in spotting that artistic DNA hidden in the pages of portfolios from young designers arriving from over 80 different countries. His evaluation and selection has unmistakably resulted in artwork projects of truly amazing quality, allowing ITS to showcase a full-blown art exhibition, materially connecting the worlds of art and design.
We've always been keen on finding opportunities for growth & support for our finalists, and striving to give their careers financial security. Precisely what Swatch has allowed us to do through ITS Artwork, our dedicated contest aimed at discovering the most artistic-oriented young talents, giving them an art project challenge.
Milko Boyarov, the first winner of the Swatch Award back in 2013, is the perfect example: the award led to a work position at the Swatch Creative Lab in Zurich as a jewellery and watch design, position Milko holds to this day. Since then Swatch has supported a great number of ITS finalists, often surprising everyone with additional, suprise awards delivered right on catwalk on the final evening of the event.
2014 saw the launch of the full-blown ITS Artwork contest field, with Swatch picking the most artistic-oriented designers and challenging them with the development of an artistic brief. The result was a dedicated exhibition of art pieces that literally blew our mind, with Virginia Burlina - today one of the closest collaborators of fashion designer Dries Van Noten - grabbing the Swatch Award and flying to Zurich to join Milko for a remunerated internship at the Swatch lab.
The following year at ITS 2015 the projects developed by the finalists chosen for ITS Artwork were of such high quality that narrowing it down to just one winner was simply impossible. That's when true patrons show their DNA: Swatch decided right there, during the finals, to deliver an extra award that hadn't been planned before, allowing not one but three finalists to receive invaluable support. Hiroki Kataoka won the ITS Artwork Award with his incredible mechanical heart installation, which provided him with much needed pocket money to launch his own show brand. Shay Tako's amazing interactive installation, a reflection on the masks our cultures and surroundings have us wear in our relations with other human beings, was granted the Swatch Award. His internship turned into a work position at Swatch he still holds today, and he works together with Milko Boyarov in Zurich.
The extra award to support yet another impressive talent, a residency at the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai, went to Alexis Gautier and his breathtaking, still on-going project on archaic symbolism and the misunderstandings arising from facts, fiction and myths through cultures. This residency also allowed him to do six months of research and experiments in China, which was an extraordinary opportunity to learn, develop and collect material for his future projects, as well as develop a sculpture piece for the Art Peace Hotel titled "Hanging Piece".
At ITS 2016 it was equally hard for the jury to settle on the names of the winners, with several outstanding projects to choose from. The finalists were challenged with a specific brief, asking them to come up with their own artistic interpretation of the world of Swatch. A visual statement with no limits nor boundaries except for the dimensions of their piece and the inclusion, in whatever possible form, of Swatch products. Marco Baitella, with his beautiful technique suspending objects in what could be described as a "transparent time capsule" won the ITS Artwork Award, while the Swatch Award went to Jana Zornik and her surreal kaleidoscopic-like piece. Just like Milko Boyarov and Shay Tako before her she had the chance to fly to Zurich to work at the Creative Lab for a 3-month internship. But it was impossible not to assign an additional award to Hazuki Katagai and her "Weapons of Love" installation, and Swatch once again decided to surprise everyone and add an award, granting her a 3-month residency at the Swatch Art Peace Hotel as well, for which she developed her "8 Breaths" installation: 8 objects with 8 recipes to visualie and consciously be aware of one's own breath.
And that was not it: Swatch was so impressed by the work of finalist Sheila Pazos that they decided to hire her full time as well. In October 2016 she has gone to join our growing ITS bunch in Zurich.
Since 2013 Swatch has supported through ITS Artwork the careers of 9 young talents, not to mention the possibility for the 30 artwork finalists selected up to now to showcase their work in front of key people in the industry. Some of them have seen this opportunity evolve into internships and full-time working positions, including the chance to learn from and work side by side with Carlo Giordanetti himself, which translates as "learning from the best".
We're thrilled to be back with Swatch this year and are looking forward to discovering who will be this year's most artistic-oriented designers and how they will interpret the Swatch brief, which will be unveiled soon!