Supima Design Lab Returns to Paris for Fourth Edition

·3 min read

COTTONING ON: After a pandemic-enforced hiatus, the Supima Design Lab was back in Paris on Wednesday for its fourth edition, once again showcasing innovative cotton in creation and spotlighting emerging talent from its design competition.

Guests could get up close and personal with the designs neatly arrayed in the gilded salons of the Hôtel de La Salle in the tony 7th arrondissement, all created using Supima cotton.

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The first room gave pride of place to the designs of the 14th Supima Design Competition, whose designers were sporting mega-watt grins. Due to ongoing travel restrictions, their trip to Paris had been a welcome last-minute surprise, revealed 2021 winner Yuki Xu, whose megawatt smile was as bright as the lighting around her designs.

Being in Paris was giving lift to her desire to work in the couture field. Not for its luxurious image, mind, but because it’s the field of “pioneers in the industry,” at a moment where “clothing is the least needed thing for us [humans] to survive,” she said.

In the adjoining room, Charles de Vilmorin was taking his position as one of this year’s leading designers — alongside Nix Lecourt Mansion, Mira Mikati, Tom Van Der Borght, Pierre Kaczmarek for his Georges Wendell label and Jordanluca’s Jordan Bowen and Luca Marchetto — with humility.

Although he felt he was also looking for answers, he did have one nugget of wisdom to share with the younger generations, saying: “Just do. Don’t [second-guess] yourself too much. Don’t compare yourself to anyone and do whatever you do with sincerity and meaningful intent.”

Against an elegant chimney in the final room, dedicated to the finalists of the 2021 Hyères fashion festival, the hybrid tailoring of winner Ifeanyi Okwuadi, Finnish designer Sofia Ilmonen’s modular gowns, the animalia of Venia Elonsalo or twisted deconstructions from Taiwan’s Mengche Chiang seemed about to step out of the life-sized screen to join the looks on display.

The year’s Hyères finalists were honored at the 2021 Supima Design Lab. - Credit: Julio Piatti/Courtesy of Supima
The year’s Hyères finalists were honored at the 2021 Supima Design Lab. - Credit: Julio Piatti/Courtesy of Supima

Julio Piatti/Courtesy of Supima

While the mood was celebratory, creatives were keen to integrate the learnings of the design lab further into their work. For example, the use of a particular material — Supima cotton in this case.

Focusing solely on existing materials felt like a breakthrough moment for IFM graduate Chiang, who had used upcycling in his graduate work. “It’s a starting point to thinking things differently and outside of the box. Less materials, more ideas,” he said.

This was the spirit Marc Lewkowitz, president and chief executive officer of the cotton organization, hopes the program would foster.

He described the exhibition as an opportunity to visualize the potential of a material that can be traced down to the farm level — a sophisticated but costly process used by Kering — and put the finger on deeper issues like value reconsideration.

“Nothing is sustainable. We are consumers, we consume [in everything we make], even with a circular approach,” he said, noting that responsible practices and a commitment to continuous improvement were the only way forward, especially for an industry where still too few are regulated.

“We fundamentally, simply have to change and we need leaders in the industry that will champion and partner with us — or any [similarly minded] organization — based on knowledge, centered around responsibility, which itself comes from accountability,” he continued. “Just holding a certificate just to get a check mark or a gold star is not OK — or responsible.”

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