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Hyères 2011 Winner: Emilie Melden

We talk to the Swiss designer after winning the Jury's Special Prize at the French photo, design and music festival

Of the many prizes Hyères’s fashion festival handed out this year, the l’Oréal prize, the Première Vision prize, the most anxiously awaited one was the Prize of the Jury – hardly surprising when the latter is composed of Raf Simmons, Kristopher Kane, Proenza Schouler, Cathy Horyn of the New York Times, Tim Blanks of Last night in a converted warehouse on the Mediterranean seaside, the laurels were awarded to Emilie Meldem, a Swiss girl whose work is a tongue-in-cheek interpretation of her country’s rituals – creating clothes that are as meticulous as they are cuckoo.

Wooden sticks and deconstructed lederhosen punctuated her presentation, which she conducted by roaring out her manifesto: “We advocate minimal eccentricity, that is decorative and radical at the same time.” We met the winner, chosen “because of the fervour put into her work” according to Tim Blanks, after the show and talked nudist skiing, commercial vs. conceptual. And esoteric carnivals.

Dazed Digital: How did you end up here?
Emilie Melden:
As you may have guessed, I’m from Switzerland. I did my bachelor’s degree at the Ecole de Bahl, followed by a Master’s degree at Paris’ Institut Français de la Mode. I went on to do an internship at Viktor and Rolf; a few months later I found I was amongst the ten nominees of this year’s edition of Hyères and had to drop everything to produce the collection in two months.

DD: It’s nice to see that fashion isn’t just about mini Rick Owens-types and head to toe Goth looks…
Emilie Melden: Of course not ! Just remember, when it comes to fashion, there is more than Paris.

DD: What inspired you about Switzerland ?
Emilie Melden: It’s a tiny country full of contradictions, very rigid, stern yet profoundly eccentric. There we are, lost in the mountains, serious at first sight yet full of strange rituals: we’ve invented esoteric carnivals, naked skiing; we love animals yet we eat them and wear them. It’s this contrast that I tried to translate in my work.

DD: Your clothes are rather theatrical, how can they be adapted to everyday life?
Emilie Melden: If you look closely, there are in fact many wearable pieces – loud elements and more simple items. Of course, commercialization is something I’ll have to think about and I hope I can find a middle ground, say produce simpler garments but still keep 4 or 5 pieces that I won’t need to compromise.

DD: Who is the ‘Emilie Meldem’ woman?
Emilie Melden: She is a woman who is conscious of things and the world around her, but has the courage to make her own choices, even if it counter-current.