Mitya Hontarenko, the founder of PALINGENESY brand, became the first Ukrainian, who received an award at the International Talents Support (ITS) Contest — this Italian contest has been opening new names in the fashion-industry for 20 years. Mitya won the ITS Footwear Award supported by Fondazione Ferragamo for his collection of recycled shoes: each model is made of several pairs of sneakers.
In different years, ITS Contest finalists have included Demna Gvasalia, Matthieu Blazy, Alithia Spuri-Zampetti and Nicolas di Felice.
DTF Magazine asked the designer about his brand PALINGENESY, his upcoming internship with Salvatore Ferragamo, meeting Demna, who joined the jury, and his appearance at the awards with the flag #SaveMariupolDefenders
Briefly about PALINGENESY
In 2019, designer Hontarenko began customizing sneakers for himself and friends, as well as for local heroes such as Kyivstoner, Olympic medalist and professional boxer Denys Berinchyk, Bellator MMA champion Yaroslav Amosov, and then launched the recycling brand PALINGENESY. Last year, PALINGENESY launched a sneaker recycling initiative with Riot Division and made several pairs using Riot Division materials..
— You call the direction in which you work “conceptual recycling. What is the conceptuality or difference from conventional recycling?
— Our work conveys a vision of how old shoes and clothing should be remade and used. One should not just remake for the sake of remaking, but to rethink familiar silhouettes and realize them in a new and unique product — this is our frame of reference.
— Was the collection for which you received the award prepared especially for the contest, or was it released earlier?
— We sent the materials of already finished shoes to the ITS Contest.
We started working on the collection in September 2021, and before that we experimented for almost a year, so there were enough concepts to show our style.
We make art that can be worn, and we use old shoes and clothes with accessories to create it. In general, we never have a ready image in advance: the details can change at every stage, it’s as if we’re painting in progress.
— So this was your first full-fledged collection, right? What was special about it: the materials, the techniques, or something else?
— PALINGENESY has no concept of a collection, we move from concept to concept. Sometimes it can be a drop of six or more pairs united by a common concept, for example, we did a limited drop for the Berlin store Studio 183.
I’ve put together the most dissimilar concepts for the ITS Contest to show that we do things differently and we don’t start from any one style, whether it’s destructive, or twinning, or any of the other things we do. We create all the concepts from parts of old shoes and clothes with accessories, but the emphasis is primarily on materials from old shoes.
I will tell you in more detail on the example of the two items that were at the ITS Contest. The first pair from «Concept 2» is made from two identical pairs of Nike Blazer sneakers, but in different colors and sizes, as if we twisted them on a new sole. Here we made a twin tongue even before Nike did it in a collaboration with Sacai, and we put all this interestingly designed warp on a sole from Adidas golf shoes, which was 3 sizes bigger, we just split it up.
We used different parts from different sneakers in «Concept 10», also there are parts not only from old sneakers, but from X-pac for example. We got this material from the Riot Division collaboration, after which they gave us some leftovers from production, old samples and swatches, for which we are very grateful.
— What does the ITS Fondazione Ferragamo Award mean to you as a designer?
— I want to tell you an important thing: all this work is not only my merit, but the merit of the whole PALINGENESY team. Hugs to Kolya, Olena and Ira!
For me personally, it’s a nice motivation to keep working, no matter what.
This award, the Footwear Award is one of the most influential shoe-related awards at the ITS Contest, and it’s a really high level. Especially when the brand that awards you is pleasantly surprised by the approach and compares it to Salvatore Ferragamo.
— In addition to the cash award, you have the opportunity to intern in the creative department of Salvatore Ferragamo. But the Salvatore Ferragamo brand is more about the classic shoe craft, about working with leather, and you work with shoes recycling. How interested are you in an internship at such a company?
— Interning in the creative department of a brand like Salvatore Ferragamo is an invaluable experience. Despite centuries of tradition and a rather classic style, in a conversation with Salvatore Ferragamo Foundation director Stefania Ricci and brand employees, we came to a consensus on how to integrate something similar to our style into such a brand.
Our style isn’t just about redoing old sneakers, we use clothes and other accessories in our work.
— You posted a photo with Demna Gvasalia on Instagram. Tell us, please, about this meeting. Was it an afterparty photo or maybe you discussed a possible collaboration?
— Demna won in one of the nominations back in 2004 (the designer received the award in the category «Collection of the Year». — Note from DTF Magazine). This year the ITS Contest celebrated its 20th anniversary and Demna was on the jury. It was quite nice that he knew who I was, where I was from and what I was doing.
I will not divulge the details of our personal conversation, I will only say that Demna is very supportive of our country and worries about all the events, as evidenced by his tears after my speech on stage.
He wrote «Glory to Ukraine» in Ukrainian on my flag after the conversation. I plan to sell this flag as a lot at some charity auction, and the money will be given to volunteers I know personally.
— As for the flag. You went on stage for the award with the flag of Ukraine with the inscription #SaveMariupolDefenders on it. How did the audience react to it?
— Ever since I knew I was going there, I knew I had to draw attention to those who were fighting for our freedom. I knew exactly what to write on the flag because I have friends who have been held captive since the events in Mariupol, and some of them are among the missing or dead.
We must not forget, thanks to whom we can design and live a more or less civil life. The audience gave me a standing ovation that night, and after the ceremony, many designers and fashion personalities congratulated me on my victory and expressed their support for our country when they saw me.