International Woolmark Awards, London
On the rainy streets of London in July, the prestigious International Woolmark Awards were held at the Hospital Club, Covent Garden. The awards were set up to promote the use of wool within the fashion industry and to support developing designers.
The Woolmark brand has long been a familiar sight to many, as it is a sign of excellence and quality, but the brand fell into a period of uncertainty in the 1980s. It wasn’t until 2008 when the Australian Wool Innovation acquired Woolmark that it was revived, promoting Australian wool at the same time. They still use the iconic Woolmark branding to do so, which is said to be one of the most memorable brands.
Being held across five regions, Australia, China, India, Europe and the US, the International Woolmark Awards aims to educate and inspire people about Merino wool. The Woolmark Company is known for supporting individual excellence in design, having nurtured the talents of both Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld in the past. The winner from each region will receive $50,000 towards their next collection and the chance to be part of the International final, of which the winner will receive financial backing in the form of $100,000 to assist their next fashion show. The winner will also have their collection publicised through international retailers such as Harvey Nichols.
The garments that had been shortlisted for the award were on display at the Hospital Club in London. Showing off the usability, tactility and quality of the wool were designs by a host of different designers including Andrea Incontri, Andrea Pompilio, Anthony Vaccarello, Co|Te Italy, Hana Zárubová, House of Dagmar, Ipek Arnas, James Long, Jan Taminiau, Maria Barros, JW Anderson, Michael Sontag, Moses Nieto, Nina Skarra, Niyazi Erdogan, Olympia Le-Tan and Zdenka Imreczeova.
The award was given out by a panel of judges, all of whom play significant roles within the fashion industry. There was Alber Elbaz, artistic director for Lanvin; Alexandra Schulman, editor of Vogue UK; Christiane Arp, editor of Vogue Germany; Dean & Dan Caten, DSQUARED2; Tim Blanks, editor at Large Style.com; and designer, Giles Deacon.
The award was given to Christian Winjants for his design – rounded in striking yellow, which faded into white and black. Winjants stated that the design was about the idea of using one ball of wool to create something. The 34-year-old designer from Antwerp, Belgium launched his own brand in 2003, with his collections being presented over 18 seasons at Paris Fashion Week and sold globally. He will now go on to develop a collection to be shown at the international final of the Woolmark Awards.
The Belgium-based designer was very happy to work with such a natural material as wool. “I am very pleased and honoured for the respect I have received from the judges,” Winjants stated. “We are human beings and it’s important for us to stay true to the natural fibre and what nature has to offer.”
After the award was given out there was a chance for the audience to ask the panel of judges any questions they might have. It was an interesting chance to hear an expert’s view on the industry – specifically the use of wool within it. Furthermore, it was a chance to promote wool as being a huge part of the ever-developing fashion industry, even when cheap, modern fabrics are being mass-produced constantly.
We look forward to the International finals in February 2013, which will be held at London Fashion Week, when the winners will show their capsule collection of Australian Merino wool and the overall winner will be chosen.
Photos: Rebecca Saunders