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Vanessa SchindlerCourtesy of the Festival d’Hyères / Mercedes Benz © Philippine Chaumont & Agathe Zaerpou-

Five Names To Know From This Year’s Festival d’Hyères

As the annual festival of fashion and photography finishes in the south of France, we present our pick of the creative upstarts to keep your eye on over the coming year

Though located somewhat off the beaten track – geographically at least – the village of Hyères, in the sleepy hillsides of France’s Côte d’Azur, is a place of surprising creative energy. This is much to do with Villa Noailles, found in the village’s uppermost reaches, a Robert Mallet-Stevens-designed home built for art patrons Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles in 1923 for them to summer with the Surrealist luminaries of the day. The villa, an ode to early Modernism, counted Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau and Luis Buñuel as regular guests; Man Ray chose it as the subject of his film Les Mystères du Château de Dé.

Since 1986, the villa has played host to a more fashion-concerned ensemble, who take the trip each year for the Festival d’Hyères to discover a new raft of creative upstarts across the disciplines of fashion design and photography. Each year the culmination is the Grand Prix, in which which ten young designers compete for a monetary prize, a year working alongside Chanel’s couture artisans, and a chance to take part in Mercedes-Benz’s International Designer Exchange Program with a show at Berlin Fashion Week.

This year, that prize was decided by a jury assembled by designer Haider Ackermann, comprising Tilda Swinton, Farida Khelfa, Delfina Delettrez Fendi, Lou Doillon, Ben Gorham, Farid Chenoune and Jefferson Hack, as well as last year’s Grand Prix winner Vanessa Schindler. Here, across the categories of fashion, accessories and photography, we pick five names to keep your eye on over the coming year.

1. Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh

You would be hard-pressed to find a more contemporary collusion of fashion’s current fascinations than in Antwerp duo Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrug’s work. Their collection, shown at the festival, indulged in du jour logo play (Shell’s logo was reconfigured as ‘Hell’), decidedly abstract accessories (an inflatable animal was strapped atop several looks) and a well-timed message about environmental consciousness, communicated through trails of fishing net-like garments, to shed light on ocean pollution. Such elements no doubt contributed to the pair taking home this year’s Grand Prix – but it was the vibrant ode to the Caribbean that ran throughout in an electric colour palette and the stacking up of exaggerated garments that best ensured they stayed away from well-trodden ground.

2. Vanessa Schindler

Demonstrating exactly how much you can achieve in a year, last year’s Grand Prix winner Vanessa Schindler returned to Hyères with her first collection to show the spoils of her win – the expert petites mains of the Chanel couture workshop having had the most evident impact, providing newfound layers of intricacy. “I just wanted to push it a little further and find new volumes,” she told AnOther. “I had an obsession with evening dresses, but I wanted to present them with a little sense of humour.” It made for a collection of subversive glamour, wherein diaphanous layers of fabric were edged with rubbery urethrane, usually used as a means to join materials together, giving garments the movement of exotically coloured underwater creatures. Schindler will take some time out for a residency in Paris, but anticipation around the young designer remains high.  

3. Eva O’Leary

Led this year by Bettina Rheims – her saturated photographs for Details magazine in the 1990s made up one of the exhibitions at Villa Noailles – the jury for the annual photography competition selected Irish American Eva O’Leary as the recipient of this year’s prize. Her work was a play on the selfie, instructing her young, female subjects to pose in front of a two-way mirror and to communicate the exact moment they were happy with the image they saw. It was then that she would take the photo. The result is a touching portrait of emerging womanhood, as the subjects search in the mirror for the person they hope to find. 

4. Marie-Ève Lecavalier

In a post-Phoebe Philo landscape, there is an undeniable desire for clothing that functions like that she created during her tenure at Céline – and an astute collection from Canada-born Marie-Ève Lecavalier provided welcome possibility for the future. Melding her father’s music taste from the 1970s – in particular, the psychedelic swirls of artists like Frank Zappa, here printed on elongated blouses – with beautifully cut leather and lean, elegant lines, it made for an eminently desirable first outing. “Everything is what I would like to wear, what I dream to wear – shirts, pants – I want to be comfortable, I never want to be the one in a giant dress with frou frou,” she told AnOther. The collection saw her not only receive an honourable mention from the jury, but a midriff-bearing dress, in raw-cut leather and edged with trails of diamanté on the neckline, saw her secure the festival’s Chloé Prize. Though unsure whether she will continue her label post Hyères – she is currently working for Raf Simons in Antwerp – there was palpable anticipation for this already polished designer.

5. Cécile Gray

Cécile Gray may not have won this year’s accessories prize – chaired by a jury headed by Christelle Kocher of Koché, that honour deservedly went to Kate Fichard, Flora Fixy and Julia Dessirier of H(earring) for their jewellery made to adorn hearing aids – but her delicate accessories, hand-crimped layers of golden thread designed to hover atop clothing, caught the eye nonetheless. But it was the accessories category in general that made for some of the most interesting pieces of the competition, from the jewellery of Keef Palas, whose garlic gloves and olive leaves make for truly ephemeral earrings that dissipate organically, to that of Räthel & Wolf, whose sleek geometric jewellery is designed to slot on to the body in unexpected places. 

With thanks to Mercedes-Benz.