By  on August 11, 2008

BEIJING — The Triumph Inspiration Award design competition ended here last week, with Midori Matsuo, a 21-year-old design student from Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo, grabbing top prize.

Matsuo titled her piece “Under Skin.” The bra is shaped like a pair of droopy cartoon eyes made from crystals and stuffed black satin. Tears dangling strands of crystal and silver fall from one eye, while a frowning pair of puffy, red satin lips completes the ensemble.

According to her statement in the competition look book, Matsuo believes crying and lingerie are only revealed to the most important person in a woman’s life.

“I designed my lingerie to look like the face of a crying woman to illustrate this commonality,” she said.

The lips were reminiscent of Comme des Garçon’s fall collection, which featured open mouths worked into coats and dresses

“My inspiration comes from my inner thoughts,” Matsuo said through a translator. “I actually already had my design before [Rei Kawakubo’s] show. When I saw it, I began to realize I have something in common with great designers and I was very happy.”

German photographer Ellen von Unwerth, one of the judges of the event, said Japanese designers are “really creative and they’re not afraid to go so outrageous.”

Fellow judge Helena Christensen said, “I’ve usually been inspired by Japanese designers like Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto. They really go their own way.”

Christensen described the winning design as “kooky.”

Runner-up Theresa Bachler submitted a design that could have gone straight to the retail racks. Inspired by the Thirties little black dress, Bachler presented a demi lace bra and silk boyshorts with a lace panel in the front and ruffles in the back. Fun details polished it off: a knitted black cap, pearls and a swath of chiffon slung over the shoulders and attached to the bottoms like sexy suspenders.

“This is my first lingerie design,” said the ESMOD Munich student. “I didn’t expect it to be such a success.”

Jan Rosenberg, head of global sales and marketing for Triumph International, admitted all the judges thought Bachler’s was the most commercial of the top three designs. Third-place winner Stine Fagervik-Rosen of Norway showed Sixties-style full bottoms and dangling colored strings, which would have also been easy to market. But as the event was about creativity, Matsuo’s crying face had the competitive edge.

“I felt it was fun,” he said of the winning piece. “But of course it’s not fun commercially.”

Going through the competition, Rosenberg highlighted Malaysia’s entry, admiring the reference to French history and the superb craftsmanship. Designed by Merlin Yuwita, it didn’t even make it to the top 10.

“Sometimes,” Rosenberg sighed, “good things get stuck in

the middle.”

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