Compressed Hyères

The annual fashion festival that launched the careers of such stars as Viktor & Rolf is in full swing in the tranquil southern town of Hyères, France. Despite the sulky sun and unseasonably low temps, the fashion-forward have been flaunting their spring wardrobes—Givenchy men’s is huge!—at the runway shows, conferences and exhibitions that continue through Monday at Marie Laure de Noailles’s 1920s modernist villa.

Oliviero Toscani, the legendary fashion photographer behind Benetton’s controversial ad campaigns, spoke at a conference about fashion photography. A formidable orator (he almost matches Lagerfeld in repartee), he’s also an expert provocateur. At one point, he said the only British contribution to the EU is the English language. The room roared.

However, over at the fashion show competition (the winner will be chosen on Sunday), I wasn’t really blown away by what I saw. Some interesting stuff, but nothing that suggested the advent of anything new. Still, I have three picks. My chouchou (French for “favorite”), men’s designer Lucile Puton, took inspiration from the landscapes of photographer Walter Niedermayr. The mix of cyber and earthy hues, the face masks that looked almost surgical, the snug but structured trenchcoats and the pants made of a lattice of grosgrain ribbon all made for a wearable yet highly interesting collection.

There was something beautiful and intriguing about the penitent yet sensual all-black silhouettes of the Korean Yun Jung Kim, who designed her clothes after visiting Spanish churches. Most of the models’ bodies might have been hidden (except for their faces surrounded by large, lacy headgear), but their womanly shapes were outlined.

Many designers have already explored papery fabrics (most recently Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel), but I couldn’t resist the charm of Alexandra Verschueren‘s collection. The Belgian designer used clean shapes to enhance her pleated effects. And for her showroom installation, she created an office completely out of paper, down to a paper computer.

For the photography prize, my bet is on Yann Gross, a Swiss who can clearly boast the most original subject: skaters in Kampala, Uganda.

Stay tuned for the award ceremony on Sunday evening.

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