By Joelle Diderich
with contributions from Miles Socha
 on April 6, 2021
Louise Trotter

PARIS — Louise Trotter, creative director of Lacoste, is to preside over the fashion jury of the 36th edition of the Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography.

The announcement was made in Hyères, France, on Tuesday, signaling the festival’s commitment to staging physical proceedings, despite the coronavirus pandemic, which last year forced it to reschedule the event from April to October, with many key judges logging in digitally due to ongoing travel bans.

Shoe designer Christian Louboutin will head the jury for the festival’s accessories prize, while photographer Dominique Issermann will take the lead for the photography prize.

A key platform for emerging talents, the festival is scheduled to take place from Oct. 14 to 17. “We hope that we will be in good enough shape to be able to all enjoy this moment in person,” Trotter told WWD in a telephone interview.

In keeping with the spirit of the event, which traditionally takes place at the modernist Villa Noailles, she hopes to foster a sense of togetherness, with a jury that is a mix of emerging talents and established personalities known for nurturing young creativity.

“I want to keep it very spirited,” said Trotter, who said it was the first time she has been tasked with heading a fashion jury.

Among the members of her squad, which has yet to be finalized, are upcycled sneaker designer Helen Kirkum; musician Steve Lacy; artist William Farr, known for his floral installations; stylist Suzanne Koller, and artistic director Ruba Abu-Nimah, recently appointed as executive creative director at Tiffany & Co. 

It will also include Alfredo Canducci, founder of incubator System Preferences, and Belgian designer Tom Van Der Borght, winner of the Première Vision Grand Prize at Hyères last year.

Lacoste has an exhibition space here, and what I plan to do is to hand that exhibition space to my jury, with a program so that it becomes an open space for creativity and for expression,” explained Trotter, who in 2018 became the first female creative director at Lacoste following stints at Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Joseph, among others.

“To support next gen, I think it’s very important to create a community, and I think that was really my approach. You know, the business is changing so much, and I wanted to kind of use this as an opportunity to reach out in a different way,” she added.

The 10 finalists selected among 250 applicants are an eclectic bunch, she said. “What I wanted to look at was really a sense of individuality, a strong sense of expression, a strong, clear voice, and also somebody who was at the point in their career that I thought this was the right time for them,” Trotter said.

They are Adeline Rappaz (Switzerland); Arttu Afeldt, Sofia Ilmonen and Venia Elonsalo (all three from Finland); Elina Silina and Laima Lurca (both from Latvia); Ifeanyi Okwadi (U.K.); Mateo Velasquez (Colombia); Mengche Chiang (Taiwan), and Rukpong Raimaturapong (Thailand). 

They will compete for the main fashion prize, named Première Vision Grand Prize; the 19M Chanel Métiers d’Art prize, and the Chloé prize. The festival is also introducing a new award for sustainable design sponsored by Mercedes-Benz. 

Founded and headed by Jean-Pierre Blanc, the event has been a launchpad for many fashion designers, including Paco Rabanne’s Julien Dossena, Viktor & Rolf, Anthony Vaccarello and, most recently, Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh, who were named creative directors of Nina Ricci mere months after winning Hyères and reaching the final stage of the LVMH Prize.

Louboutin said he whittled down about 80 contenders in accessories to the 10 finalists, highlighting jewelry as a strong and popular category this year. He also cited the importance of eco-friendly — “or at least eco-concerned” — approaches across the board, along with recycling and genderless concepts.

Recycled plastic emerged as a popular material employed across a range of categories, with entrants creating everything from hats and handbags to shoes, jewelry and eyewear.

The designer allowed that evaluating young designers is a difficult, multifaceted process.

“Creativity is the first thing, but it also needs to work for the fashion industry and with a functionality,” he said in a telephone interview. “I have to like it, but it’s not the only criteria.”

Louboutin said he was struck by the lack of levity in the design concepts. “A lot of the things we saw are not very playful, or joyful,” he said, musing that it could be “a reflection of our times.”

To be sure, Louboutin has been a staunch believer in the importance of accessories, having collaborated with young fashion designers in Paris since the early ’90s, when he did shoes for Josephus Thimister, then the designer at Balenciaga.

“When a young designer does a fashion show, shoes are an element that can lift the quality of the work, or bring it down,” he noted. 

The accessories jury will include Paula Amorim, founder of Lisbon-based Amorim Luxury Group; artist Marcantonio Brandolini d’Adda; French DJ and performer Corine; jewelry designer Zuleika Penniman; Suzanne von Aichinger, director of the photography department at Christian Louboutin, and Ddiddue and Juana Etcheberry, winners of the main accessories award at the festival in 2020.

For the photography prize, Issermann tapped model agent Didier Fernandez; director Yves-Noël Genod; photographers Ollivier Hersart and Guanyu Xu; model and director Anne Rohart, and photography operator David Martin.

Having skipped the last Paris Fashion Week, Trotter said she would unveil her fall collection for Lacoste in a month, but declined to provide additional details. “I believe at the moment, there’s no particular time or no particular format in how we can present our work,” she said.

Like many designers, she has profoundly re-evaluated her working process as a result of the pandemic-induced disruption of the last 12 months. 

“As a human being, as an individual, it’s challenged me to think in many different ways. I think the way that I interact with my creative team around me has changed, and that has had an impact on me as a creative leader, and how I lead my team,” she reflected. 

“It’s also made me question a lot of what I’m producing and how much I’m producing, and then also really made me think about where do I see the future, and what can I contribute for the future?” she said. 

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