Launched in 2002, the initiative aims to help showcase and support emerging designers and their talents. Kouto, who recently graduated from Fashion Matters at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, will now undertake a 6-month internship at Diesel (he was also given a €10,000 cash prize).
“The upcycling couture collection Suspended Bodies That Will Never Fall is based on a feeling of uncertainty,” Kouto tells Vogue. “[The collection] is made from a curated selection of used textiles and garments, collected by the sorting facility Texaid [based in Switzerland]. The materials have been upcycled into unique pieces including coats, jackets, tops, dresses, trousers and even blankets. They’ve been embellished with repurposed waste materials, like inner tubes, electronic wires, ropes, parachutes, leather and plastic bags, using craft and couture techniques like screen printing, embroidery, crochet, knitting and laser cut.”
Inspired by his mixed heritage, Kouto’s designs showcase the results of his experiments with both couture techniques and traditional craftsmanship – including on denim. “The collection is made of leather jackets that have been upcycled with a crochet technique. The idea is to create an anachronistic look made of denim by mixing denim handcraft with couture. It’s an outfit that aims to represent an escape from and against the mass-production of fast fashion, by referring to the African culture, military and couture.”
Kouto has since taken to Instagram to share his delight at scooping the award, while paraphrasing a comment made by the panel of judges: “Rafael demonstrated an incredible potential in creating and developing new or modified products with a contemporary aesthetic and an attention to recycling. His variety of ideas, his manipulation of materials and his product design offers a fresh and contemporary point of view.” Watch this space.