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Fearless fashion

A model photographed from the shins down standing on blue-carpeted ground. The model is wearing brown leather shoes and playful trousers dripping with long golden ribbons.
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Anything is possible: the 34th edition of the Hyères Fashion Festival honours the radical fashion of young designers.

Talking to Yana Monk, you get the feeling she could pick up a rucksack at any moment and disappear into the woods for a hike or climb a mountain. Her casual attire and tied-back hair don’t immediately suggest that the woman standing in front of you is presenting her collection at one of the world’s most important fashion festivals for up-and-coming designers. Thankfully, the fashion world has eschewed many of the clichés that surround it and is very much alive and well – more so than it has been in a long time. And Monk’s look is all the more appropriate when you consider where she found her inspiration: on an Arctic expedition, Monk encountered nomads who, in a matter of minutes, would gather up their belongings and resettle when necessary.

“Comparing this to the way we urbanites live seemed like a pioneering concept,” she says before a panel of illustrious judges at the Hyères Festival. She is one of 10 finalists to present her collection. Monk’s designs are characterised by materials that shimmer in Arctic hues, cowl-like hoods and prominent shoulder pads for protection against wind, rain and cold. Functional outdoor attire meets haute couture. Monk says, if you want to face the challenges of the future, you need to adapt.

Once a year, the Villa Noailles in the town of Hyères becomes the gathering place for a flock of fashionistas. Sponsored by Mercedes-Benz, the fashion and photography festival is one of the most renowned platforms for emerging talent looking to burst onto the scene. Here on the French Riviera, Paris’s fashion elite absorb the radical spirit of young designers and lay the cornerstones for partnerships.

The Hyères Festival has served as a weather vane for fashion’s changing winds for 34 years. Finalists present their creations to a jury chaired by chief designer of the fashion house Chloé, Natacha Ramsay-Levi. The festival also reflects female empowerment, as evidenced by the competition for the most original accessories. One such accessory – the shouldered breast bag by Belgian designer Sarah Levy – provides space for wallets, smartphones and keys.

A model wearing a white blouse and a black leather breast bag. She is opening the bag, showing its functionality.

Milla Lintilä of Helsinki makes a similar point with her collection that tackles gender diversity. Accessories are the bread and butter of the major fashion houses, but in future, she says, women will no longer be bogged down by these. Instead, Lintilä celebrates simplicity with flowing trousers, skirts and tops. The designer believes that many of her designs could just as well be worn by men, even though her pieces are modelled by women. Indeed, gender lines are becoming more and more blurred. Anything is possible. The fashion we wear will be the fashion we want to wear.