The 35th edition of the Hyères Festival will be recalled as a year marked by turmoil and interruption. The festival was delayed due to the pandemic.
Embracing the spirit of the times, as ever, this year’s Festival embraced the idea of recycling. The top fashion accessories prize went to Basque country brother and sister duo Juana and Ddiddue Etcheberry, while the coveted grand prize was awarded to Belgian designer Tom Van Der Borght.
Villa Noailles, the cultural and art center of Hyères
Hyères festival of fashion and photography, well known among industry professionals and very much anticipated, was affected as well.
Due to the lockdown, it was rescheduled for the 15th to the 18th of October and took place under strict hygienic measures: social distancing, face masks, hand sanitizer stations, check-in at the entrance and mandatory reservations for all events related to the festival.
Villa Noailles, the cultural and art center of Hyères and an important monument of modernist architecture, was as usual the main venue. Unlike the previous years, it was divided into two designated areas: one private area for selected press and jury members where all live performances, concerts, and speeches happened and the second area for other members of press, professionals, and guests where they could watch the live events on a large screen.
Even though most events happened in one place technically, you couldn’t help but feel the physical separation that ultimately affected the atmosphere and the energy.
And even though the technological tools were used to bring people together virtually, yet they could not replace real physical presence and real-life social experiences.
Several members of the jury could not physically attend the festival, both the president of the fashion jury Jonathan Anderson and the president of the photography jury Paolo Roversi as well as Tim Blanks, Amanda Harlech, Tyler Mitchell to name but a few. They joined the panel via zoom.
Jury members attended via Zoom
“I will never leave this room ever again, I think,” said Tim Blanks jokingly to other jury members on the zoom call from his home in London. Those who could physically attend the festival were happy to be there and felt like being part of something very special.
This 35th edition of the Hyères festival was indeed significant in many ways. First of all, it highlighted the uncertain future of physical fashion events.
Can they exist in times of major health crises? Or will they be eventually replaced by digital-only events? Those are important questions for an industry that strongly relies on networking and social connections.
Secondly, the festival made clear that we need to find ways to continue to foster creativity and creative freedom especially in times when our basic human freedoms are at stake. It was an important and courageous gesture on the part of organizers to ensure that the festival still takes place in such unprecedented times.
It was a message of support for creative freedom and a message of hope.
“Of all the years this one is the most important as the world is changing,” said J.W. Anderson in the recorded conversation with Loic Prigent.
The participating designers shared the same mindset. They talked about the struggles and difficulties that they and the organizers faced to make the festival happen. They talked about fighting for it. And they were grateful to be there and to be able to present collections they worked on for years.
There was a common concern about the planet and climate change. The designers talked about finding ways to produce quality garments sustainably. Most of them used recycled, deadstock or donated fabrics. They used paper, ropes, plastic cable ties, pillows, found or donated, and converted them into wearable pieces that blurred the line between fashion and art. There was a common emphasis on handmade and handcrafted.
Less is more and quality over quantity were concepts they embraced and pushed for. Their energy and the drive to make the industry and the world at large a better place was palpable and incredibly inspiring.
The work of the competing designers was each very unique and diverse and rooted in their individual experiences and inspirations: from refugee crisis (Timur Desdemoustier, Belgium) to reimagining life and the wardrobe of Jeanne Baret, the first woman ever to sail around the world (Katarzyna Cichy, Poland) to the power of music (Maximilian Rittler, Austria).
Tom van der Borght wins Hyères
The main fashion prize was announced by Jonathan Anderson via a video message on Sunday afternoon the 18th of October and awarded to Tom van der Borght from Belgium for his menswear collection of complex and colorful garments slash performative art objects.
Van Borght used fabrics, ropes, plastic cable ties and Swarovski crystals for his looks which he called a new kind of haute couture. Van Borght will receive a grant of 20 thousand euros, produce a collection with Chanel’s Métier d’art worth up to 20 thousand euros and will present his current collection at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Berlin in 2021.
Van Borght won the hearts of both the jury and general public as he also took home the public prize of the city Hyères.