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Melding Fashion and Art

HYERES, France -- Is the future of fashion represented by a sweater made of shredded plastic bags or a skirt-and-jacket combo?<P>Actually, it's both, according to judges at last month's annual young designer festival here. Split on whether to favor...

HYERES, France — Is the future of fashion represented by a sweater made of shredded plastic bags or a skirt-and-jacket combo?

Actually, it’s both, according to judges at last month’s annual young designer festival here. Split on whether to favor creativity or wearability, the jury at the 17th annual International Festival of Fashion Arts divided the grand prize between Riviere de Sade, the French-born team of Laure Riviere and Donatien de Sade, and Portuguese designer Felipe Oliveira Baptista, who is based in France.

Riviere de Sade featured a collection with plenty of street attitude, including the plastic-bag sweater and a blue blanket worn as a shawl. Baptista, who has already worked with Cerruti and Josephus Thimister, featured ruffled skirts and tops with structured jackets.

Meanwhile, retailer Henri Bendel, which sponsored an independent prize for the second consecutive year, crowned Russian-born Valeria Siniouchkinia,who soon graduates from the Brussels fashion school La Cambre.

In some respects, the Bendel’s prize is the most coveted. With it comes a pledge to help in the production process — not just industry kudos. The store sponsors the winning designer’s debut runway show and features the collection in its Manhattan store. Last year, Belgian Christian Wijanants won.

“We quite liked the spirit of Valeria’s collection,” said Anna Garner, Bendel’s fashion director. “It has a lot of energy.”

Daryl Kerrigan, a member of the fashion jury, said the sprightly, redheaded Siniouchkinia reminded her of herself when she was a student.

“The memories came rushing back to me,” Kerrigan said. “I remembered all of the hopes and fun creative spirit that made school so special.”

Other judges include designers Gilles Rosier, Andre Walker, Lutz, Kohji Tatsuno and Gaspard Yurkievich, and retailers Ed Burstell of Bendel’s, Suzanne Tide from Selfridges in London and Sarah Lerfel and Alain Snege from Colette in Paris.

Siniouchkinia, who named her collection Omsk after her father’s Siberian hometown, described her collection as influenced by Eastern European girls who have innate fashion sense but little access to stylish clothes. “They take clothes out of their mom’s closet and wear them with a certain attitude,” she said.

Declaring a photography winner was hardly a snap decision, either. The jury — which included Vogues Hommes editor in chief Richard Buckley; Regis Durand, the director of Paris’ National Center of Photography, and art directors M/M and Peter Saville — awarded the grand prize to France’s Erwan Frotin, with a special mention to Ola Rindal of Sweden. Jury members lamented that many of the photographers failed to offer a new perspective and that their work would be hard to use in a fashion magazine.

But it wasn’t the photography in competition that generated the most buzz. Designer Karl Lagerfeld mounted an exhibition of his photos and some dresses from his Lagerfeld Gallery collection. It was a return of sorts for Lagerfeld, who has often photographed Villa Noailles, the house built by architect Robert Mallet-Stevens that is the festival’s nerve center.

Lagerfeld’s photo installation consisted of fashion photography and, since his display was set around the villa’s swimming pool, a new series depicting a male swimmer from Denmark. “I find it a little Yves Klein,” said Lagerfeld of his installation.

Visitors also congregated at a photo exhibit by Tokyo-based Kyoichi Tsuzuki, who took portraits of young Japanese men and women who obsessively cram their small apartments with clothes or shoes of a favorite designer such as Gucci, Anna Sui, Hermes, Comme des Garcons and Yohji Yamamoto.

“It’s a real sociocultural phenomenon,” said Tsuzuki. “You’d think that these people would be shy about showing off their collections, that they would be ashamed of their strange hobby. But they love showing off. It rubs some of the brands’ press officers the wrong way. They don’t like seeing their fashion shown off in this type of queer environment. But it’s the way it is.””