Who is Olivia Rubens, winner of the ITS fashion contest?


The 18th International Talent Support contest held annually in Trieste, Italy, took place online in late October. Olivia Rubens, the Canadian designer and queen of knitwear and sustainability, beat 32 finalists from 16 countries to win the top prize.

The ITS contest may be less famous than the Hyères Festival, where the designer Tom Van Der Borght won the 35th jury’s award, but it’s an equally exciting platform for new designers to reach key positions in the world of fashion. 28 year old Olivia Rubens flew the flag for Canada and won over a jury of 24 figures including the designer Christelle Kocher, president of the Chamber of Italian Fashion Carlo Capasa and Renzo Rosso, Diesel founder.

Olivia Rubens grew up in Ottawa in the Ontario region. She graduated from Ryerson University in 2015 and worked in Canada until 2018 before moving to London and doing her MA in Fashion Design Technology Womenswear at the London College of Fashion. The young woman now runs her incredibly creative self-titled brand and has a strong environmental and social ethos. Not only are all the fabrics she uses natural, biodegradable, approved or recycled but she also works with the Italian Manusa cooperative. The knit manufacturer employs women in difficulty and qualified African refugees alike.

As a teenager, Olivia Rubens was fuelled by metal and punk. She wore brightly coloured pieces, vintage band t-shirts and XXL hoodies with a good dose of eye liner which caught people’s attention and made her a victim of bullying. Olivia uses her collections and brand philosophy to encourage people to accept differences and combat injustice and prejudice. Her clothes blend sportswear, grunge and pop to make people question women’s place in society, the perception of women and the rocky road they often have to travel.

Torn wool balaclavas, woven blouses and draped loose trousers: these odd and eccentric pieces are of the finest quality and involve countless technical skills. One of the designer’s most recent projects was creating an original look using denim from Diesel’s dead stock. The young designer also used linen, British indigo-dyed mohair and recyled denim yarn to create the weave for this complex outfit. Always on the hunt for new challenges, Olivia Rubens now wants to create a cycling brand that’s fully traceable, ethical and performance-based as well as providing complete information about the process’s carbon footprint. It’s an exemplary project that she hopes will inspire the fashion and luxury industry.

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