There are countless fashion competitions held every year around the world, but few have a reputation for discovering talent like Who Is On Next, held in Italy during the Altaroma Couture shows in July. Previous winners include Arthur Arbesser, MSGM’s Massimo Giorgetti, Nicholas Kirkwood, Stella Jean and Marco de Vincenzo, who was also on this year’s jury along with Valentino's Pierpaolo Piccioli.

This year's competition was tough, with young designers like Marco Rambaldi and Davide Grillo, who both worked with Dolce & Gabbana before launching their namesake brands, in the running, but Act N°1’s design duo Luca Lin and Galib Gassanoff ultimately won this year's fashion competition.

Lin and Gassanoff's Resort 2018 ready-to-wear collection consisted of embroidered satin separates paired with thigh-high boots and oversized, jeweled safety pins suspended from the models’ noses, which drew a few gasps from the audience. “They’re one of our trademarks,” says Gassanoff. "We’ve used them in all three of our collections. A bit heavy to wear for a long time, but not so bad for a short show.”

The collection was inspired by their respective childhoods. Lin grew up in Italy's Reggio Emilia, but his parents are originally from China, while Gassanoff was raised in Georgia by Azerbaijani parents. “We grew up in different countries, but the fact that both of our childhoods were so similar united us and inspired us to launch our own label and put our story of multiculturalism into the brand identity,” says Gassanoff.

For their collection, Lin and Gassanoff drew inspiration from some ancient Chinese folding screens found at Lin’s parents’ home and '90s post-soviet interiors and traditional Azerbaijani carpets from Gassanoff’s side. The floral patterns are based on memories of Gassanoff’s Georgian hometown, and Lin managed to slip in some Tang dynasty elements into the outerwear with Ruqun national costumes and Jīngjù theater details spicing up jeans and deconstructed tailoring in Chinese silk brocade and canvas.

“My parents moved to Italy during the 1980s and opened the first Chinese restaurant in Reggio Emilia, the city that we are based currently. They’re obsessed with Chinese vintage furniture and objects," says Lin. "My home and the restaurant’s interior are full of ethnic stuff, and that was really inspiring throughout my childhood."

But the designers also drew inspiration from late '90s grunge, the kind of raw, non-fashion street style they both experienced first hand when growing up. “I come from a little village where there were no fashionable people, lots of prints, exaggerated piercing and chains,” says Gassanoff. “I’m not really into feminine fluidity. I want to make women look stronger.”

Although Act N°1 has only been around for three seasons, the brand is already stocked in 20 stores and can be found on Farfetch and Luisa Via Roma. And, with this win, their stock will most certainly rise. The only question left is when will Rihanna take notice?

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