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Nicola Mira
Nov 22, 2021
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Taesoon Chai of Korea wins 2021 edition of ITS emerging designer competition

Translated by
Nicola Mira
Nov 22, 2021

The International Talent Support emerging designer competition (ITS), founded by Barbara Franchin in 2002, was held again in virtual format this year, after going digital in 2020 owing to the pandemic. The closing event of the competition’s 19th edition took place on Friday November 19, on the ITS website and on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. The winner of the 2021 edition’s main prize, the OTB Award, was Korean designer Taesoon Chai, who came out ahead among the competition’s 530 entrants from 80 fashion academies in 30 countries, with 60 nationalities represented. The announcement was made by Renzo Rosso, CEO of Italian fashion group OTB, during the online award ceremony.

A look by ITS 2021 winner Taesoon Chai - ITS

Among the finalists’ entries, the eight looks created by Taesoon Chai were appreciated for their clear, sophisticated and well-balanced aesthetic. Chai created a menswear concept with a simple, straightforward design, the result of an in-depth study on volumes, cuts and colour palette, as indicated in the jury’s statement. The clothes showcased a highly wearable, contemporary style, enabling the talented young designer to be picked as the OTB prize winner.

“Our group has always been keen to encourage and back young talents from around the world, also through valuable initiatives such as ITS. The OTB prize bears witness once again to our commitment to offer constant support to emerging designers and their creativity,” said Rosso, whose international fashion and luxury group, based in Breganze, Italy, owns Diesel, Maison Margiela, Marni, Jil Sander and Viktor & Rolf, as well as service companies Staff International and Brave Kid.

This year, the ITS competition chose ‘Costruire l’arca’ (Building the ark) as its theme, a reference to the “creative ark” ITS has fostered in its 20-year history. But the theme, and the word ‘arca’, are also a nod to the launch in 2022 of ITS Arcademy, the design school the Trieste-based event will open next year for its 20th anniversary. ITS Arcademy will be accessible to the public and will host training courses, meetings and exhibitions. It will also be a meeting place for the members of the ITS family, including former finalists, jury panellists and celebrities.

The city of Trieste, Italy, where the 2022 edition of ITS will be staged in physical format - ph Giuliano Coren

ITS also recognised Aitor Goicoechea Abruza and Adam Elysasse, joint winners of the ITS Responsible Creativity Award by Allianz, endowed with a €10,000 purse, while Hua Hui won the newly created ITS Digital Fashion Award, which came with a €5,000 cash prize.

The third edition of the Lotto Sport Award was instead won by Chinese designer Qingzi Gao, 26. In second and third place, Israeli designers Tomer Stolbov and Hadar Slassi. The prize entrants were tasked with creating their own personal reinterpretation, in contemporary mode, of the Lotto Signature tennis shoes, first introduced to celebrate former Argentine tennis professional José Luis Clerc. Gao, who won over the jury with her eclectic design, blending a futuristic aesthetic with retro printing, earned the chance of an internship at the Lotto product development office, working on a capsule collection in collaboration with the Italian sportswear brand’s design and development team.

This year, ITS also launched another new initiative, the BTA-Building the Ark web series, consisting of seven films produced by three former ITS finalists, covering three different themes, each backed by one of ITS’s main sponsors: the family (sponsored by OTB), the heart (by Swatch) and the future (by Allianz). The videos were streamed online between May and October, totalling over 5 million web views.

The Lotto Sport Award’s winning design, by Qingzi Gao

The three designers chosen - Olivia Rubens, winner of last year’s ITS competition, Noa Baruch, winner of the 2020 Diesel Prize, and renowned milliner Justin Smith, ITS finalist in 2007 - each styled a special creation which has become part of the ITS Arcademy’s archives, which already include 18,000 design portfolios, 325 garments, 152 accessories, 103 jewellery items and over 700 photo projects.

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