Photo by Adrien Toubiana, Thomas Cristiani. Styled by Danielle van Camp. Produced by Kitten.
Photo by Adrien Toubiana, Thomas Cristiani. Styled by Danielle van Camp. Produced by Kitten.

With a haute pedigree of past winners including incoming Saint Laurent creative director Anthony Vaccarello and Lacoste’s Felipe Olivera Baptista, the Hyerès International Fashion and Photography Festival is the crème de la crème of Europe’s fashion competitions. For its 31st edition, which kicked off earlier this week, Hyères’ founder and director Jean-Pierre Blanc recruited Paco Rabanne Creative Director Julien Dossena, who bagged a special mention at Hyères in 2006, to judge the fashion competition. Of the 10 designers shortlisted this year from France, the U.S., Japan, Finland and Sweden, it was a unprecedented sweep for menswear talents this year which says something about fashion’s current genderless trend. Japan's Wataru Tominaga, a khaki-clad 28 year-old, won Hyères' Première Vision Grand Prize, which includes the chance to produce a collection with Chanel's Metier d'Art specialty ateliers, worth €15,000, to be shown at next year's festival.

The men in your show looked like Aztec dancers or hippies on acid. What was the inspiration for this collection?
I like the hippie movement, when people mixed men's and women's fashion and didn’t care about gender in clothes. And I really admire folkloric costumes as they are the primitive way of enjoying life and art, before modern life when we became aware of categorization.

How did you create these pieces?
It’s simple. I put strips of heat tape over pleats. My idea was to put two opposing aesthetics together: the pleats of Madame Grès and the stripes of late 1980s polo shirts. I’m also interested in folkloric fabrics like bright florals, which for me symbolize the primitive way of mixing art and life.

You’re a Madame Grès fan. I also see a hint of '70s Issey Miyake in the pleats and Kenzo Takada’s folklorics.
Madame Grès' work is beautiful and feminine, but her obsession with little pleats and bold graphic color seems also a bit masculine to me. I don’t have an intentional connection with Issey Miyake or Kenzo Takada, but as we’re all Japanese without roots in european clothes, or an idea of separation between masculine or feminine style, there might be a connnection. Perhaps, being Japanese, we’re more indifferent to the history, or hierarchy of fashion.

What did you learn at Central Saint Martins and living in London?
I learned that fashion comes from young primitive, anarchic power, especially in London. I like that a lot. And London is racially diverse and that made me feel more independent.

What are your plans for this summer, now that you've won? I received my BA in fashion print from Central Saint Martins last year and I’m currently on a MA fine art course at CSM, which I will complete in September. I’m very excited to design another collection for Hyères next spring. I haven’t discussed with the Chanel Métier d’Art team yet, but I would like to make a unisex collection using embroidery, leather crafts, and pleats. My vision for women is as colorful and fantastical as my men's wear.

Although your designs are quite eccentric, you're a very quiet dresser. I noticed you were wearing pressed, uniform style khaki’s at the awards ceremony.
I’m a designer who surprises people and makes them happy, but my clothes need to be practical as I get dirty when I work hard. Someday the two may match each other.