Boundary-breaking and sustainable fashion wins International Woolmark Prize

Sheep Central, February 18, 2019

2019 IWP menswear winner Edward Crutchley, left, with womenswear winners Nicole and Michael Colovos.

WHAT do American cowboys, a biker jacket and an 18th century frock coat have to do with Australian Merino wool?

Just ask 2019 International Woolmark Prize menswear winner Edward Crutchley, who was lauded for his 100 percent Merino wool boundary-breaking collection at the annual prize awards night during London Fashion Week at the weekend.

Australian Wool Innovation said “by exploring global cultural references and aspects of material culture, Crutchley’s garments push the boundaries of form, silhouette and surface.

Models wearing Edward Crutchley designs.

“Looking outside of traditional cultural signifiers to more sub-cultural references, Crutchley fuses a biker jacket with an 18th Century frock coat, reimagines the grungy tie-die on an American college knit with the help of the head of Kyoto Guild of Shibori Masters and references the cowboy’s role within America’s identity.”

The London-based unisex designer said: “This win means everything.”

“It has changed my life forever.

“It’s going to change the way I design and approach everything. I’m incredibly flattered,” he said.

“All of these references come together in a collection made from 100% Merino wool.

“I have used a wide range of techniques that celebrate the touch of the artisan.

The designer said his approach to innovation within the collection has been very much focused on artisanal skills and how these can be celebrated and used in a relevant and modern way.

“Every fabric I have used is exclusive and developed solely for this collection.”

Crutchley was also announced the winner of the Innovation Award, celebrating the most innovative or sustainable approach to systems production, materials, textile design or product design.

Judging panel member Tim Blanks, the Business of Fashion’s editor-at-large, said: “I think it speaks volumes that there is a such a clear consensus on the winner of the International Woolmark Prize this year for Menswear and Innovation.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a designer like Edward Crutchley in the competition,” he said.

“I find the whole idea of him being a winner and the figurehead of creative innovative use of wool in the fashion industry so exciting. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen.”

Colovos takes womenswear title

A model wearing a Woolmark Prize-winning Colovos design.

AWI said husband and wife duo Michael and Nicole Colovos’ winning womenswear collection referenced classic wool sportswear and workwear throughout history yet updated this concept with modern proportions and patterning techniques.

Judging panel members Floriane de Saint Pierre, founder of Floriane de Saint Pierre et Associés, said Colovos’ work “stood out for its quiet evidence.”

“Its pure design aesthetics, genuine functionality and the amazing and innovative use of super-light wool, combined with the founders’ attention to sustainability, make them deserve this great award and recognition.”

The Colovos’ innovative wool fabrications were described as having  contemporary finishes that evoke the look and feel of denim and silk; creating comfortable, effortless and trans-seasonal wool fabrics. The tailored coats, pants and skirts are made from wool that is completely traceable, washable and colour- and shrink-proof.

Michael Colovos said the pair’s goal was to “create a luxury, modern collection with a fully sustainable proposition.”

“We are committed to principles of zero waste in manufacturing, so all production waste and end-of-life garments will be recycled to create new fabrics, a process that uses steam, heat and citrus to breakdown the fabric waste and create a new fibre to be spun into fully recyclable yarns,” he said.

Wool fashion comes from across the world

Judging panel member and designer Alber Elbaz said the prize finalists were 12 great designers.

“It was quite wonderful to see designers from places like Korea, China and Sweden, because sometimes in fashion we think everything happens in Paris, so this was a reminder that the world is big and fashion comes from everywhere around the world.”

The International Woolmark Prize winners were chosen from more than 300 entrants from across the world. The 12 finalists at this year’s award were: Albus Lumen – Australia; Angel Chen – China; Brandon Maxwell – United States; CMMN SWDN – Sweden; Colovos – United States; Daniel w. Fletcher – United Kingdom; Edward Crutchley – United Kingdom; i-am-chen – Hong Kong; Nicholas Daley – United Kingdom; Willy Chavarria – United States; Yohei Ohno – Japan; and Youser – Korea.

Edward Crutchley and Colovos will each receive A$200,000 to help support the development of their business. Crutchley will also receive a further A$100,000 for his Innovation Award win. Both winners will also receive ongoing industry mentor support, Woolmark certification for their winning collection and the opportunity to be stocked in some of the world’s most prestigious department stores and boutiques, including Boon The Shop, David Jones, Harvey Nichols, Hudson’s Bay, Lane Crawford, LECLAIREUR,, ORDRE, Parlour X and Takashimaya.

The Woolmark Company managing director Stuart McCullough said The International Woolmark Prize is an award for the future leaders of the industry, an industry that is rapidly changing to meet the demands of a changing consumer, climate and resource availability.

“The level of talent we saw today from all 12 designers was exceptional.

“Each and every one pushed the limits of the fibre, of their design and of the manufacturers they worked with,” he said.

AWI said The International Woolmark Prize is a unique talent development program which celebrates the world’s best emerging designers, providing them with ongoing mentorship from industry experts. This year’s entrants will join a prestigious alumni program, with 400 designers already benefitting from the award.

For the first time, the International Woolmark Prize has connected with leading industry taste-makers as ambassadors for the award and we thank Amanda Parkes, Aquaria, Colin Firth, Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler from Diet Prada, Casey Spooner, Christine Centenera, Laura Jackson, Susanna Lau from Style Bubble and Simon and Kirsten Lock for their support.

Source: AWI.


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