ITS: East Side Fashion

Mason Jung. All photos by Sonny Vandevelde


Trieste, on Italy’s Adriatic coast, is so full of triumphant Nineteenth Century architecture you could almost forget that it’s 2009.  Ten miles from the Slovenian border, this is where James Joyce holed up for ten years and began Ulysses. How’s that for inspirational? But there’s not exactly a tradition of fashion here, so it’s an odd place to discover the latest crop of international talent—but ITS (International Talent Support), the annual fashion, accessories and photography competition, is headquartered here. Each year in July, for the past eight, the independent style press—(magazines like i-D, Dazed and Confused and Katie Grand’s Love), headhunters from LVMH, PPR, Burberry and Diesel, among others, head to Trieste to attend ITS’ fashion show, check out accessories prototypes and photographer’s portfolios, and see who bags the prizes at the end. The finalists chosen by ITS (there are about 15 in each category) are all in their final year of school.  They’re talented, eager to stand out and are  hoping to make their mark in the fashion industry, or the art world.

ITS is also one big three-day party, where a  photographer  from China can meet a budding Turkish shoe designer and reinvent the world with a South Korean from London’s Royal College of Art who has figured out how to turn suits into sleeping bags.

Mason Jung, 32, is from South Korea. He graduated two weeks ago from the Royal College of Art, and last weekend he won ITS8’s Fashion Collection of the Year 20,000-Euro award for his “Sartorial Burden” menswear based on the designer’s dislike of uniforms. “My collection questions the general perception of clothing and it’s inspired by an antipathy to formalwear,” says Jung in perfect English with a slight British clip. “The suit never changes and while I was in the army (Two years’ military service is compulsory in South Korea) I had to march in uniform all the time with a sleeping bag and blanket on my back. While doing that I imagined how wonderful it would be to have a suit I could turn into a sleeping bag.”  

Alice Knackfuss, 26, from Germany who won ITS8’s Diesel Award, which comes with a 50,000-Euro grant and a six-month internship at the Italian jeans’ brand’s headquarters in the Veneto, says she isn’t sure what she wants to do yet. But Diesel’s founder Renzo Rosso, ITS’ major sponsor, thinks her clashing mix of plaids in jeans and jackets with old-fashioned details is very modern. “When I see the shows, I’m wondering how I can work with these people. Designers before they have any professional experience can be crazy, but sometimes they bring something really new,” he says.

That’s certainly the case for Japan’s Yuima Nakazata, 23, who has been studying fashion design in Antwerp and will show his first collection in Paris in October. Nakazata won ITS8’s Accessories Collection of the Year award which comes with 10,000 Euros from YKK fastenings for his metallic leather disks that can be zipped into a pair of boots.

Masha Lamzina from Moscow, who won a special mention for her women’s collection and 5,000 Euros, isn’t looking for a job, because she’s already selling her clothes from her own site.  Lamzina  transforms traditional workwear shapes from China, Korea and Russia’s Soviet era, with odd, handmade touches like grandma crochet lace duplicating the old Coca-Cola logo and photo prints of large faces decked out with Swarovski crystals and beading. “Eventually I’d like to go to China or India to find a manufacturer, but right now I make everything myself,” says Lamzina, who doesn’t sell to stores in Moscow. “They don’t buy from local designers,” she explains. “Russian stores are only interested in famous labels.”

By comparison, the photographers at ITS are untouched by commercial, or fashion concerns. For them, the competition is just another chance to show their work. Saana Wang from Finland set up a series of imaginary stories in derelict apartments in old Beijing and won the big prize from Mini Clubman—a 10,000-Euro grant and the chance to do a shoot with New York-based photographer Ari Marcopoulos, which will be featured in a gallery and photo magazine spread.