Triumph International, based in Munich, has a 120-year love affair with intimate apparel. Now the company, which has annual wholesale sales in excess of $2.5 billion, is spreading its lingerie-loving gospel to the academic world by launching the Triumph Inspiration Award.

The award is a worldwide design competition that concludes Thursday in Beijing, about a week before the Summer Olympics kick off in the Chinese capital. The aim of the competition is for students from 31 countries and 70 design schools to find a “fresh perspective” on innerwear, according to Triumph officials.

With the TIA, Triumph hopes to bring attention to the creative and conceptual design of intimate apparel. The first round of eliminations was recently completed and contest organizers are primed for the Beijing finals that will feature the finalists’ showpieces: products that demonstrate their vision, and in many cases, their flair for the dramatic. As an example, Australian finalist Kimberly Lim, who considers her piece a “mixture of both robotic and seductive,” cites motion pictures “Metropolis,” “Galaxina” and “Terminator 3” as inspirations for her creation.

The first-place winner will have the opportunity to adapt his or her piece into a commercially viable item, which Triumph said will be featured in select Triumph stores worldwide. Two runners-up will receive monetary prizes of 10,000 and 5,000 euros, respectively, or $15,600 and $7,800 at current exchange. Judging the student designs is a panel, which includes photographer Ellen von Unwerth, model Helena Christensen, Sarah Lerfel of Colette and design duo Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren of Viktor & Rolf.

For French finalist Noemi Ben Nun, the TIA presents an opportunity for students to leave their comfort zones. “It is easy to isolate ourselves in our creations,” she said. “The TIA invites us to open our eyes and minds, and get stimulation from the world.”

Students have been taking the competition seriously, according to Merve Liebelt, Triumph’s communications director.

“The level of creativity and also in many cases the technical perfection, has been much higher than we dared hope for,” said Liebelt, adding he has confidence in the TIA program’s future.

Even though the winner’s final product will eventually make its way into stores, Liebelt insists that the aim of future contests will remain, as the award’s moniker suggests, to inspire design students. It also serves as a reminder to the international intimates community that “creative and unique pieces can be absolutely wearable.”

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