LONDON-BASED designer Saul Nash has won the 2022 International Woolmark Prize at a special event in London with his unique take on Merino wool use in activewear.
The designer was praised for his modern use of Merino wool, bridging a gap between active solutions and more formal requirements, Woolmark said.
Italian designer and co-judge Riccardo Tisci said the seven Woolmark finalists did a great job and could have been a winner.
“But what Saul did, coming from a ballet background to replace lycra with wool was really incredible,” he said.
Woolmark said Nash’s collection exposed him to the benefits of Merino wool in activewear, allowing him to develop materials that have enhanced the quality of his designs without compromising their technical DNA. With a focus on minimising waste, and emphasising movement and performance, Saul Nash’s modern interpretation of knitwear challenges preconceived ideas surrounding sportswear, Woolmark said. His win came with A$200,000 in prize money and ongoing support from the industry and Woolmark Prize retail partners.
Saul Nash’s collection included “breakthrough fabrics” like a compression wool hybrid jersey/airtex mesh knit and a double-faced jersey with integrated mesh holes – offering high stretch, strength and breathability — developed with the Knitwear Lab, Woolmark said.
“Words cannot describe what this means to me,” Saul Nash said.
“In such a short space if time I am so grateful for what I have gained in the past eight months.
“This really is the cherry on top for everything Woolmark has done for me.”
The seven finalists for this year’s award were Ahluwalia, United Kingdom; EGONLAB, France; Jordan Dalah, Australia; MMUSOMAXWELL, South Africa; Peter Do, USA; RUI, China; and Saul Nash, United Kingdom.
MMUSOMAXWELL wins 2022 Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation
South African-based MMUSOMAXWELL was awarded the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation and A$100,000 in prize money.
MMUSOMAXWELL’s winning collection was committed to reducing its environmental impact and upskilling traditional craftsmanship, Woolmark said.
French fashion editor and co-judge Carine Roitfeld said MMUSOMAXWELL has a dream and what it is are doing is not just for South Africa, but for a modern, western woman.
“I think Karl (Lagerfeld) would have loved to have spoken with them today and am sure he would be very happy to give this award to them.”
Woolmark said MMUSOMAXWELL sourced local raw materials and end-to-end production to take an artisanal approach in its collection. Each item promotes slow and small batch production through use of local artisans to counteract the over-consumption pandemic and allows for greater product traceability. The jury praised the design duo for their passion, courage and committed to introducing a new skillset to South African manufacturers, Woolmark said.
MMUSOMAXWELL designers Maxwell Boko and Mmuso Potsane said the win meant everything to them.
“It allows us to continue working with artisans and to further explore with Merino wool, which is fantastic for us.
The Woolmark Company managing director John Roberts said the International Woolmark Prize is “the jewel in our crown.”
“It connects our Australian wool growers with the global fashion and textiles industry and in turn highlights the beauty, versatility, and modernity of Australian wool.
“We’re proud of the relationships fostered between our seven finalists, prestigious judging panel and supply chain network who have mentored these designers on their Woolmark Prize journey and hope these connections continue in the future.”
The prize’s expert jury of judges also included Ben Gorham, Edward Enninful OBE, Ibrahim Kamara, Marc Newson CBE, Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski, Naomi Campbell, Pieter Mulier, Shaway Yeh, Sinéad Burke and Tim Blanks. The announcement was hosted by Nick Grimshaw and was also attended by Jourdan Dunn, Pixie Geldof, Susie Lau and Erin O’Connor.
Naomi Campbell said it is great to see the continuing shifts in fashion as young dynamic creatives are supported and nurtured across the globe, from Africa to China to the UK.
“Anyone who knows me will know that I’ve been supporting young talent at every opportunity, so I am very happy to be part of this initiative.
“Everything about the wool industry is self-supportive,” she said.
“It’s all about partnering the natural resources of the farms with the well-being of their sheep. I am very happy to be involved with Woolmark.”
Woolmark said the International Woolmark Prize this year celebrated the art of play, partnering with the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum. The immersive final showroom in London was inspired by the sculptural playscapes of Isamu Noguchi that offered a radical potential for physical and social interaction, showcasing the seven finalists’ collections with colourful, architectural displays. The showroom also featured two iconic original play sculptures by the artist. Each six-look Merino wool collection was a true celebration of forward-thinking design, with finalists experimenting with textiles, design and responsible business practices to drive change and innovation for a cleaner, brighter future, Woolmark said.
Supply chain award to the Knitwear Lab
The prize’s supply chain award recognising an outstanding contribution by a trade partner was this year presented to Netherlands-based Knitwear Lab. Woolmark said the lab is a research and knowledge hub for innovative, design-driven and sustainable knitwear solutions, including innovative 100pc Merino wool fabrics. It was recognised for its contribution to the International Woolmark Prize and for giving access to technology and research and development in flat-bed knitting to emerging brands in a way that is specific to their needs. Knitwear Lab also further developed its relationship with finalist Ahluwalia, exploring her concept of Nollywood through innovative knitwear true to the Ahluwalia brand, Woolmark said.