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Maiko Takeda’s designs on Björk’s Vulnicura album imageryPhotography Inez and Vinoodh

The accessory designers getting noticed (even by Björk)

To celebrate ten years of the YKK ITS accessories award, we revisit the past finalists who are making a name for themselves

International Talent Support (aka ITS) is the annual competition that, untethered by geography, scours the world’s best art schools and plucks out the most promising creatives – kicking off the careers of designers who have gone on to do everything from collaborations with Dover Street Market (Sophie Bille Brahe, ITS#7 finalist), to outlandish stagewear for Lady Gaga (ITS#8 winner, Yuima Nakazato). YKK – the masterminds behind fashion’s favourite fastenings – have sponsored the accessories division of the contest for ten years and, in that time, made a reputation for themselves: they seem to have a knack for discovering the latest visionaries in accessory design. Whether the finalists have gone on to forge a lasting collaboration with a music icon or had their designs shot by Karl Lagerfeld, we take a look at where our favourites are now to celebrate the milestone anniversary.

Competing for the prize last year was Maiko Takeda, the Tokyo-born jewellery designer and milliner whose MA collection ‘Atmospheric Re-entry’ caught the eye of not only the judges, but Björk too. The Icelandic icon chose to don several of Takeda’s surreal light-emitting head pieces for her 2013 Biophilia tour, and then another for the cover of her new album, Vulnicura. What with a solo exhibition in Paris under her belt and a recent relocation back to her home turf to work at Issey Miyake, the Central Saint Martins and RCA grad is building a an impressive oeuvre.

Elsewhere in Tokyo, Yuima Nakazato (winner of the Ann Demeulemeester Award for Innovation as well as the YKK Award in 2009) has created his own label; a conceptual and futuristic vision that elicited the attention of Lady Gaga herself. During her tour of Japan, Gaga wore a bespoke “Black Fire” dress especially designed by Nakazato: a brutal and sculptural creation crafted of metal. The queen of costume has also looked to another YKK ITS finalist for their extravagant millinery – Irene Bussemaker, whose creations have been captured by Karl Lagerfeld and Steven Meisel.

As well as the global stage, the work of former YKK finalists has also been transposed to the silver screen. Justin Smith, an early competitor for the award in ITS#6, was responsible for designing the formidable leathered horns worn by Angelina Jolie in Maleficent. It came after a busy few years for the London based milliner, who already boasts a collaborative repertoire that includes Stella McCartney and Moschino, alongside running his own bespoke line.

It is this flair for diversity, the process of creating art for and in different contexts, that marks out these finalists. Like Ivana Damjanovic, last year’s YKK Award winner, who formally trained in architecture and sculpture before channeling her talents into accessory design. Her label, Lamat, (still only in infancy) has been recognised in global competitions for its futuristic aesthetic, where her three-dimensional renderings of leather are inspired by astronomy and pop culture film trilogies (her first and second collections, respectively).

At the opposite end of this artistic spectrum is Ana Rajcevic, another architecture grad and winner of ITS 2012’s Accessories Collection of the Year. The triumphant collection – “Animal: The Other Side of Evolution” – was a fibreglass and silicon rubber masterpiece experimenting with the human and animal form. With Darwinian notions at play, the skeletal and sculptural extensions were artistic creations in their own right and have since gone on to be exhibited in galleries, and Rajcevic is now a contributing artist for Nick Knight’s SHOWstudio. The past finalists are a formidable bunch, but with this year’s competition imminent, watch this space.

Explore Ana Rajcevic’s studio in the film below: