GIRL POWER! Interview with the winners of ITS International Talent Support Awards 2018

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ITS International Talent Support is back with a bang, awarding the best
talents coming from all over the world. And the winners of this year are
all women! We asked them 3 questions to discover their stories and
something more about their bold vision of fashion design.

years of passion, of hard work and dedication trying to discover,
launch and support the best new talents of fashion design. More then a
simple contest, ITS is a mission, created and developed by Barbara
,  heart and soul of this project and
guardian angel of all
the young designers involved. 

a year of forced stop, due to the lack of resources, Barbara could
finally do what she does best: launghing new talents on a rocket ship to

Barbara Franchin, founder of ITS International Talent Support


16th edition, with the final event held in Trieste last 27 June, seen 30
finalists selected from over 900 candidates from all around the globe,
among whom a jury formed by leading fashion and accessory designers,
insiders, journalists and influencers has chosen the winners of
significant prizes, both in terms of money and prestige.
The jury of ITS International Talent Support Awards 2018


if all the finalists were exceptionally gifted, the surprise of this
edition is that all the winners are women, sign that the female talent
is becoming even more appreciated. Because, despite of fashion world is
always paladin against any kind of discrimination, a tendency to have
women among the big names of fashion design is a relatively new thing,
even though the majority of fashion design students and employees are

Fortunately this contest, giving importance to the innovative
ideas that are of course genderless, is moving in the right direction to
launch and support the female as the male talent, overcoming the
stereotyped concept that the best designers are always men.

All the finalists of ITS International Talent Support Awards 2018 with Barbara Franchin
winners of ITS Awards are Eleanor McDonald, Tolu Coker, Tingting Zhang,
Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena, Sini-Pilvi Kiilunen and Eliana Zurlo. We
asked to five of them a short interview, with three questions for each
designer, to discover their world and something else of their experience
at ITS International Talent Support Awards.

Eleanor McDonald is a London-based designer coming from Central Saint Martins
School, who surprised everyone with the apparent simplicity of her
collection, conquiring the favor of the jury for the careful
construction of her garments and the clean silhouettes very balanced and
perfectly proportioned. 

These are the reasons why she won the “ITS
Award by Allianz”
, the major granting of the competition with a win of €
15000 and the possibility to have a 12-months mentorship and showcase
her next capsule collection at Pitti Uomo in January 2019. She won also
the “Tomorrow Award”, with a space in the Paris Tomorrow Showroom, and
the “CNMI Award”, a prize of € 5000 offered by Camera Nazionale della
Moda Italiana.

Eleanor McDonald, winner of the “ITS Award by Allianz”
How much is important for
you the be the winner of a so important fashion contest like ITS Awards? Can
you describe your experience
Winning the ITS Award is life changing.  The support for my work at
was overwhelming and I am so grateful to everyone that believed what I am
Starting my own brand has always been the end goal, I had thought I
would need to wait for a few years and come to it after working for a larger
brand, but now I can go at it straight away!
Collection by Eleanor McDonald

Your collection can appear
simple at first sight, instead is curated in every single detail. What was the

I believe that fundamentally fashion is about the garments
themselves.  How something feels to wear, and how it functions for the
wearer is of the utmost importance to me, and I think this can be lost
sometimes in contemporary fashion.  I always start by looking at
documentary photography.  I love that it captures people in their daily
lives and how their clothes hang and drape in the most interesting ways.
To me, it is all about the clothes, there is no abstract concept behind what I

Have you some projects for
the near future?
I am mainly focusing on my next collection at the moment, which will be
shown at Pitti Uomo in January next year.  I am also exploring some
collaborative projects.  I like the idea of collaboration as it allows me
to see how my ideas work in a new context.

Outfit by Eleanor McDonald
Tolu Coker, coming from Central Saint Martins, is strictly anchored to
reality using a vivid imagination and unbridled creativity. Her
collection plays with the stereotypes of society and tells a story
elevating the speech against discriminations into a broader vision of
cultural identity. 

She won the “Diesel Award”, consisting in a
fully-refunded internship at Diesel, the “Vogue Talents Special
, with the possibility to appear in th Vogue Talents website and
in the supplement of Vogue Italia, and the “ITS time for coffee”, a
special award born by the collaboration between Swatch and Illy Caffè
consisting in a 3-months experience in Shanghai to give life to a watch
& cup artistic project.

Tolu Coker


What is the inspiration of your so
strong collection presented at ITS Awards?
The collection was a continuation of
an actual  documentary I made, documenting the lives of 4 black-heritage
individuals in both London and Paris. For me, authenticity is so important, so
I always base my work around real people and real stories and it enables people
to connect to it in a very intimate way. 

I wanted to deconstruct the cultural
construction and stereotypes attached to the idea of “Blackness”, and show
people with black heritage as the unique individuals they are. I wanted to use
my collection as a space for them to tell their own stories and use their own
voices. I was born in Britain but my parents were Nigerian by birth, so my
identity is so much more complexed than a skin tone. I wanted to explore
Diasporic identity and what is means or how it is to navigate through society
with a mixture of cultures.

Collection by Tolu Coker
This is how a lot of the prints and
silhouettes in the collection came about – I looked at their childhood and
family photos, the clothes they wore, the spaces they socialised in and the
stories they shared – all to get a real feel of whom they were and show the
world some of their vulnerability and the depth of history behind each of them. 

Denim was such a key material because it’s worn through all walks of life and
it takes on the identity of its wearer, so it was a natural fit for the
collection in telling this story of identity. I also used deadstock, waste and
donated fabrics, and old clothing to address the issue of sustainable design
and upcycling. That’s where a lot of the lace and leather elements came into
the collection. 

Deconstruction was a key theme both literally and figuratively
so most materials were deconstructed and reconstructed to reveal new textures
and give them new identities (such as lace in the form of an illustration and
denim which appears like a shaggy fur). 

I took inspiration from my own
childhood and family history too – a lot of the colours are inspired by my
father’s photos (he was a photo journalist and has an incredible archive of his
involvement and experiences in social activism). There definitely is a strong
commentary on the perception of wealth and luxury throughout the collection. A
lot of people have referred to it as “street-couture”. I find that really

Collection by Tolu Coker


How much is important the
relationship between fashion and society for you?
So important. Fashion couldn’t exist
without society, its compulsory to relate the two. Clothing is literally your
second skin and its important that it’s representative of not just society, but
the individuals within in. Otherwise what you’re creating is false packaging.
Branding. Masks. Fashion is a commentary on society and in many ways we’re able
to get a snapshot of history through looking at it. 

I say a snapshot because I
think historically, fashion and art within the Western world has been elitist
and has erased a lot of subculture and real elements and people within society.
Perhaps its due to censorship, political agendas, wanting things to appear
prettier, or simply due to a lack of value for certain people or circumstances.
I feel a responsibility as a designer to give a space to those social outsiders
within the community, and record them as an important part of society too. It’s
at the core of what I do.

Details of the collection by Tolu Coker


What are your best skills and personal characteristics?
I’m a very passionate person about everything I do and
I take genuine care and pride in not only my work, but my connections and
relations to people. I’m a very observant person and I tend to keep record of
things – whether mental or physical. My design and creation is the physical
record. I have a good memory and I’m very dedicated to getting things right and
making things work. I’m also very daring – I like taking risks, they’re always
a learning curve. I think my love for story-telling is from a combination of
all these things.
Outfit by Tolu Coker
Tingting Zhang, from Royal College of Art, transformed virtual data into
something real, knitted patterns with which she created an incredibly
creative collection of hats. 

In the path to connect reality with virtual
world, she made also a great research and experimentation to overcome
the traditional techniques of knit and hat making, thing that earned the
winning of the “OTB Award”, given also to the design duo Chopova &
Lowena, consisting in a cash prize of € 10000 and an intership in one of
the OTB Group brands.

Tingting Zhang, winner of “OTB Award”


Your headpieces are connected with the identity of people, virtual or
not. Can you explain something more?
Since we entered the information era, iPhone, iCloud, iTunes,i…..Our
heads are in the “cloud”, consciously or unconsciously we consume, share and
storage the data, like water droplets, soon all data around our heads
accumulate into a small “cloud” of us. We share droplets, we “rain”, we
accumulate, and we meet other little “cloud”. We got a chance to speak and
show, without boundaries and constraints. 

As a material based designer and
artist, at the same time someone growing up switching in between online and
offline, I started a journey of exploring if I could create an intermedia to
merge the both worlds, and invite people to join, neither offline or online,
but somewhere in between or in combination of both worlds, to see what will
happen, what people will think. 

Collection of hats by Tingting Zhang

I built up a system that converts a series of
sound data represented our nowadays life (it can be any data also) into digital
knitted patterns to make a collection of hats since hats are always symbolic
representation of identity. Through its application, I intend to give hats a
new aesthetics as they are from “virtual world”, but at the same time keep the
elementary facts of a hat in daily wear. They are novelty, also rooted in
everyday life. 

I expanded it into a world full of hats as a new form of data
storage, soft cotton cloud representing the cloud computing and bubbles as our
virtual identity, I call it “i cloudcuckooland”. Visitors completing the project
by wearing, touching and playing with all the hats in this land, their
curiosity and interactions, their thinkings and questions gave the spirt flow
and created precious experiences for each other. For me, they are the fantastic
i cloudcuckoolander. 

The project “i cloudcuckooland” by Tingting Zhang
If you were a child, what would you like to be when you grow up?
Hahahah I love this question! If I were a child, I want to be become a
pilot! But it is still in my plan even I am not a kid anymore.
What are the characteristics that every good designer should have?

It could be very different for
different person! For me I think is the respect and the caring of his or her
audience. (Not to kiss the ass of every potential customer). And of course,
the curiosity of the world and the strong will of delivering the creativity
even facing great challenge!

Hats by Tingting Zhang
Sini-Pilvi Kiilunen, a 28-years-old Finnish designer from Aalto University,
restored an ideaof high craftsmanship and old-time elegance a
deconstruction and reconstruction of 19th century fashion elements,
mixing feminine and masculine to build an image aristocratic and modern
at the same time. 

Her particularly artistic approach to design process
and the visual project presented for this competition deserve the
winning of the “Swatch Award” for the category ITS Artwork, consisting
in a cash prize of € 10000 and a 6-months paid experience at Swatch Lab
in Zurich.

Sini-Pilvi Kiilunen, winner of “Swatch Award” in the category ITS Artwork
Your collection is incredibly rich of historical
references. How much is important the past for you?
I think it is difficult to design something
new without refering to something that has already been made. I think it’s
possible to find inspiration from any decade or century. The references for my
clothing is a mix from recent decades and more distant times.
The collection by Sini-Pilvi Kiilunen, winner of “Swatch Award” at ITS International Talent Support Awards 2018 in the category ITS Artwork
How do you see the future of fashion design?

More sustainable and slower pace. More quality
than quantity. Traditional handcraft ways for making clothes. At least that is
what I want to express in my work.

Speaking about sustainability, is important for you?

is important to understand your own values and work according to them.
In that way you can enjoy the creating process the most.


Outfit by Sini-Pilvi Kiilunen

Eliana Zurlo, from University of the Arts London, uses her work trying to
improve the health condition of people through a functional design which
conjugates a concept of interchangeability with high technical
performances and a vivid look. 

That’s why she was awarded with the
“Tomorrow Special Award”, a chance to work with professional designers
and showcase her works in the Tomorrow ateliers in China and Italy.

Shoes by Eliana Zurlo, winner of “Tomorrow Special Award”
How was the experience at ITS Awards?
The experience on ITS 2018 was
amazing, left me speechless. I would never forget the opportunity they gave us
to show our projects and to encourage us to believe in what we do. I will be
forever grateful to Barbara and her team.

Shoes by Eliana Zurlo
shoes are designed to produce beneficial effects on health and mood of people.
Nowadays, people live a more sedentary lifestyle that contributes to the
overweight problem. According to the British health foundation around 39% of UK
adults – that’s around 20 million people are failing to meet Government
recommendations for physical activity. Physical exercise is one of the best
weight loss methods, but sometimes it is difficult to permanently change
lifestyle because of a perceived lack of enjoyment or motivation, and this can
lead to low mood and inaccurate perception of weight.
Shoes by Eliana Zurlo
The main idea
of the project is to work against these difficulties through playful
activities, looking to increase and motivate the participation of individuals
in physical activity, thereby encouraging them to become increasingly aware of
the health benefits.
What are the futuristic materials you’d like to use and how much is
important experimentation in accessory design?

For my future project I would like to use
bioplastics but for that I would need a lot of experimentation. I think this is
the key on the development of a project where you can discover new things or
more ways to use the material you chose and improve the process.

Project by Eliana Zurlo

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