Feel the Yarn – The X Contest, Pitti Immagine. © AKAstudio – collective

The annual design competition Feel the Yarn has become an intrinsic part of the creative ideas displayed at Pitti Immagine Filati each summer in Florence. It provides maximum targeted exposure for ideas in knitwear by young international designs at the most influential yarn show in Europe each season. Feel the Yarn, the Contest, has grown and become more sophisticated across the years since it was first conceived.

In the latest edition of Pitti Filati Autumn/Winter for 2020/21, it celebrated in style its 10th edition with the aptly named Feel the Yarn The X Contest. Since 2010 more than 200 students from 20 international fashion schools from more than 10 countries have been involved in creating technical and imaginative designs for the competition.

Feel the Yarn – The X Contest, Pitti Immagine. © AKAstudio – collective

Feel the yarn has growing official backing from influential Italian bodies, principally the Consorzio Promozionone Filati (CPF) with President Federico Gaultieri of Filpucci, and Pitti Immagine with  CEO Raffaello Napoleone. Supporters include the Centro per la Moda Italiana, ICE, the government trade agency and Fondazione Pitti Immagine Discovery.

The 10th anniversary of the project was marked by an increase in the numbers of finalists, 27, drawn from a greater number of international colleges and universities who were invited into the mix, from a wide geographical area from the Far East to Europe. At the same time the number of sponsoring mills from the CPF grouping increased, crucially providing the latest in creative yarns for the finalists, who were matched up randomly with the mills.

Feel the Yarn – The X Contest, Pitti Immagine. © AKAstudio – collective

A rigorous selection process initially evaluates portfolios, ideas, and sketches where this year the students interpreted the theme of Co-Creation examining contradictory elements. Then at Pitti Filati the work of the finalists was judged by the Jury composed of journalists, designers and knitwear specialists, who voted on the best outfit, with participation from votes from the visitors to Pitti Filati, a unique system, involving a 60/40 split.

The clothes were displayed prominently in the main body of the exhibition to all the visitors to Pitti Filati. Jury members interviewed the students as they presented their designs to the panel which highlighted the resourcefulness of students explaining their design vision, some using Google Translate to excellent effect, as well as their provided translators. Many students are studying out of their home countries in universities and colleges across the world, a multi-cultural creative mix.

Feel the Yarn – The X Contest, Pitti Immagine. © AKAstudio – collective

Several aspects of Feel the Yarn stand out. The designers are paired with their partner spinners at random, so that this immediately gives them a taste of the real world, i.e. they design within the parameters and the material which are available to them, making two different designs, one for a female, one for a male figure. They might have to work with unfamiliar materials, whether natural or synthetic, colourful or undyed, and the brief which they are presented with is at the same time challenging and gives great scope for creativity. The participants marked this out as some of the most challenging features of the competition, as they adapted their ideas to the available material designing for both men and women, sometimes finding that this is itself to was inspiring, affecting their ideas radically.

The addition this year to the glittering prizes, a new scholarship to attend a course at the Master of Creative Design of Modateca – Accademia del Costume e della Moda, was won by Camilla Conti of Polimoda Florence  Representatives of knitwear brands joined the jury, sponsoring internships in their creative departments.

Feel the Yarn – The X Contest, Pitti Immagine. © AKAstudio – collective

The 10th anniversary was marked by a party in the s gardens of the Serre Torrigiani. The outfits made by each contestant were lined up on stage lit up in the darkness,  individual garments showing vividly approaches to colour and texture achieved with highly technical and imaginative yarns.

Co Creation, the set theme this year, centred on contradictory concepts. These were explained by FTY as embracing natural and synthetic, emotional and artificial intelligence, asymmetry, and the effects of technical intervention such as hybridising surfaces through techniques such as needle punching, overprinting, and modifying the feel of knits by techniques such as  bonding, doubling, enamelling etc. A tall order, showing the change wrought in the designs as the designers attempted to stamp their own ideas on the concepts.

Feel the Yarn – The X Contest party, Pitti Immagine. © AKAstudio – collective

The concept of Feel the Yarn, conceived and steered by Knitwear design expert Ornella Bignami, has expanded greatly over the past decade no doubt having an effect on Knitwear skills teaching, on the attitude of spinning mills to young talent which can enhance their own prospects. Lastly it invigorates the students themselves, who every year seem more articulate in explaining their thinking, and how much the competition challenged them to approach knitwear design in ways they hadn’t thought possible.

“I would like to make Feel the Yarn the most important reference for knitwear creativity and the yarn supply chain. I’d be pleased to have the opportunity to visit each institute, organising knitwear workshops, increasing the relationships between students and industries,” said Ornella Bignami.

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