Designers from left to right: PH5's Wei Lin and Mijia Zhang; Liam Hodges; Rike Feurstein; Staffonly's Simo Zhou and Une Yea
Designers from left to right: PH5's Wei Lin and Mijia Zhang; Liam Hodges; Rike Feurstein; Staffonly's Simo Zhou and Une Yea
Image: Supplied

I’m in Florence for the Pitti Uomo Fair, a fashion institution that has taken place biannually since 1972, focusing exclusively on menswear. In 2015 Mini began a collaboration with the fair, built on a shared passion for innovation and quality.

For Pitti Uomo 94, Mini joined forces with The Woolmark Company to present the Mini Fashion Field Notes capsule collection, an exhibition that challenged young designers to give their interpretation of the theme: transcending borders. Each participant developed a collection based on their experiences in a foreign city.

Liam Hodges is a London-based designer whose poetic and gritty vision draws inspiration from the unapologetic, rebellious spirit of modern subcultures. He channels the raw edge of hip-hop, post-punk, skatewear, and UK streetwear into defiant designs characterised by baggy silhouettes, signature patchwork, work-wear, and DIY touches. His story was based on a trip to New York, and the result was a collage aesthetic, with DIY-esque prints, classic denim, and checked overcoats.

Liam Hodges' designs
Liam Hodges' designs
Image: Supplied

Simo Zhou and Une Yea founded the Staffonly label in 2015 in Shanghai. The pair look at menswear from a different perspective: juxtaposing geekiness with more poetic elements; using technology and textile innovation to create works that experiment with materials, colours, and sculpted silhouettes. The duo visited London and fell for Greenwich Park. “It’s the perfect place to escape,” they say. “The greenness, the scent of freshly cut grass, Earl Grey tea, and scones remind us of the times we spent there.” Green became their dazzling theme, accentuated by the Meridian Line that runs through the park, reminiscent of the bonnet stripes on a Mini.

PH5 is a New York-based label run by Wei Lin and Mijia Zhang. Their knitwear relies heavily on computer programming, and their signature style features intricate patterns and whimsical designs with architectural shapes and innovative knitting techniques. The pair journeyed to Miami’s Art Deco district, an area renowned for its nostalgic pastel-hued buildings. The duo were already hugely influenced by the workmanship, palette, and style of this early 20th Century movement, and enhanced their innately graphic aesthetic to develop a look that combined innovative, sheer wool with pastel colours.

PH5's designs
PH5's designs
Image: Supplied

Rike Feurstein hails from Berlin and makes headpieces that are both statement artworks and meticulously designed millinery wonders. She loves playing with traditional techniques and classic designs to create sculptural headpieces that retain a touch of whimsy. The Catherine Palace near St Petersburg, Russia was Rike’s playground. Her defiant headpieces take an air of nobility and fuse it, surrealistically, with the hammer and sickle of the proletariat.

These collections all displayed an innovative, exciting approach to designing travel items. Staffonly’s duffle bag that transforms into a garment bag and PH5’s hand-crocheted shawl that doubles up as a travel rug are both beautiful and functional. It just shows what happens when a boundary-pusher such as Mini gives hungry, young talent the opportunity to shine.

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