The Festival d’Hyères spotlights young promising artists, and the grand prize of the jury has gotten to be known as a highway to fame. A few of the earlier winners include Anthony Vaccarello, Viktor&Rolf and Julien Dossena, creative director of Paco Rabanne and this year’s jury leader. The prize includes 15,000 euros, but also showing the winning collection in New York and Paris, designing a women’s collection with Chanel’s Métiers d’Art to be presented at next year’s festival, and serving as jury on the PV awards in September. This year’s winner is Japanese designer Wataru Tominaga, a CSM alumni with a background in fine arts who is not so sure about being tagged as a designer. We talk to him after his big success.
Wataru, you introduced your SS16 collection at Hyères festival, and left as winner of the Première Vision Grand Prize. What was your first reaction?
Actually I was feeling pressure a lot more than pleasure, as it is quite a big prize to me. There are lots of great designers who’ve won it before!
You have created a men’s collection that somehow feels genderless. Can you tell us more about your vision?
I’ve always preferred a style that isn’t focused in a specific gender. The mixture of different elements is what inspires me, so I left some feminine bits by using lots of pleats and shirring techniques. If you think about it, there is a classification of gender even in techniques or materials, and I was interested in exploring it.
You’re working with different strong silhouettes and maximalist volumes. What inspired you to do so?
I just thought I could do interesting things with those, as the fashion industry is full of minimal and normcore stuff at the moment. Also, when I was making this collection, I did not feel any pressure about the benefit out of it, so that helped too.
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You are using very bright colors. Where did you find the courage and inspiration to work with such a strong color palette?
When I started making the collection, I was looking at so many different inspirations. And I liked ‘60s or ‘70s styles during the hippie movement, when people were trying to mix men's and women's clothes. At the same time, folkloric elements were also becoming popular. I think they have a connection between them. And even in the ‘80s, menswear was more colorful, especially sportswear. These things were my inspirations for the color palette.
In what way, if any, did your internship with John Galliano help you in the process of designing this collection?
There is no connection between the internship with him and my collection. But actually it was a funny experience, because it was not a proper internship. When John was not working for any companies, he asked my tutor Elisa Palomino to send some assistants to him, as they were good friends, so me and three other classmates were sent to help with research, some of which was later used for his first collection at Margiela. We talked a lot about fashion, art and design. We went to many flea markets too. So it may have changed how I see fashion.
To take part of the Hyères festival as a designer, you must fulfill some special rules. One says the collections that have already been shown will not be favoured. If I’m right, your collection was seen at the Central Saint Martins’ show back in 2015. 
Yes, I had shown it already in London. So that was another reason why I did not expect to win. But to be honest, it is so difficult to make another collection after the graduation without any support, as there are no facilities or time. And it is not my choice in the end, they prefer something that hasn’t been shown but it is not a specific requirement.
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You have been studying for many years in different schools. Do you feel more complete, as a designer, having also a master in Fine Arts?
As I had studied Applied Art in Textile in Japan before coming CSM, for me there aren’t big boundaries between making clothes, textile and art objects. Studying Fine Arts was another dream to me, as an international student there is only one chance to do a MA course in the UK, so I chose this one. Nowadays, fashion designers or artists are not evaluated by their practical skills, it is more about how to add value to things.
What are your true origins as a designer?
I don't know what my origins as a designer are, but I always try to be honest with what I want. Nowadays there are so many more classifications to things. So I don't even know whether I should be called a designer or not.
What’s next, and what are you mostly looking forward to?
I will make another collection for next year's Hyères festival in collaboration with Chanel's Métiers d’Art, which I am very excited about. There will be a collaboration with Petit Bateau too. And I wish there wouldn’t be boundaries between any type of creation, like Fine Art or Design, in the further future.
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