DANIEL w. FLETCHER, Edward Crutchley, Nicholas Daley, all from the United Kingdom, and CMMN SWDN, from Sweden, were announced as the winners of the 2018/19 International Woolmark Prize London semi-final.
A panel comprising Tim Blanks, Editor-at-Large, The Business of Fashion; Stylist Catherine Baba; Jefferson Hack, Founder of Dazed Media; Designer Roland Mouret; Christiane Arp, Editor-In-Chief of Vogue Germany; Gert Jonkers, Co-Founder of Fantastic Man; Sara Sozzani Maino, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Vogue Italia, and Head of Vogue Talents; and Tiffany Hsu, Fashion Director, Mytheresa.com, selected the four winners.
Daniel w. Fletcher’s collection is inspired by traditional British clothing, and with wool itself being one of the oldest fabrics in the world, he sought to focus on technologically advanced iterations of the fibre, offering a new take on the historical fabric. Whilst the collection nods to the past, the fabrics look to the future. One of the most notable uses is in the sculptural scarves which appear to be almost frozen in mid-air. To achieve this, the designer experimented with weaving thin wires into a lightweight Merino to re-inforce it and give it a mouldable quality which can easily create dramatic shapes whilst remaining light and easy to wear. Elsewhere, Fletcher used high performance 'Merino Perform WP', which is made from 100% Australian Merino wool which is pre-stretched and spun into yarn before being woven to create a fabric that is both wind- and rain-resistant, breathable and resilient, and yet remains uncoated. By remaining uncoated it means it is natural, renewable and biodegradable.
“To know that all of the people that we met today on the judging panel and who are all so respected in the industry believe in me enough to choose me as one of the winners is a huge achievement for me, especially this early in my career,” said Fletcher. “I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity.”
“I have been part of the International Woolmark Prize judging panel for a while and I thought this year’s [event] was of a particularly high standard,” said Christiane Arp. “And also, it’s a reflection of what we see on the international runways and the increasing awareness of menswear, which you see today in the selection of the jury.”
The starting point for Edward Crutchley’s collection began by looking at textiles within material culture and the role they play in the expression of identity. Inspirations as varied as French Breton lace, Javanese court dress batik prints, the embroidery-covered column-like silhouettes of eastern Europe and Japanese kabuki costumes all feature, but the designer also looked outside of traditional cultural signifiers to more subcultural references, too. The most immediately identifiable is the Biker jacket: an icon in and of itself, but re-imagined along the lines of an exploded 18th century frock coat. Grungy surfer tie-dye on American collegiate knit structures made by the head of the Kyoto Guild of Shibori Masters is the ultimate blending of contemporary culture with the traditional skills of the artisan. Explains Crutchley: “My goal in putting such a variety of inspirations alongside one another is to celebrate their uniqueness and, ultimately, our own connections to them.”
With a focus and commitment to use almost exclusively pure Merino yarns within the collection, Crutchley highlights and celebrates the varied nature of the raw material. Merino wool’s fineness is shown through the innovative use of pure wool embroidery threads, while warmth and comfort become evident in garment-engineered blanket fabrics where the fluffy halo of Merino lambswool has minimal finishing but uses hi-tech looms and the skill of the jacquard engineer to create ground-breaking pattern applications. Shine and drape can be seen in quarter milled tailoring fabrics which have been calendar pressed to imitate dolphin skin. This all-year-round-weight flannel shows the potential for pure wool suiting as a commercially successful summer suiting fabric. Meanwhile, a unique outerwear finishing gives the feeling of a viable alternative to leather. “My aim with this collection is to show the diverse nature of Merino wool and the myriad possibilities that become available with different construction and finishing techniques,” said Crutchley.
“I’ve worked in fabric development for a long time and am really involved in how textiles evolve, and to be recognised for that is so incredibly exciting for me, and I’m really excited to move forward in this competition,” said Crutchley.
“It’s not often that you’re in a design competition like this that you see someone that has pushed the design envelope beyond all comprehension,” said Tim Blanks about Edward Crutchley. “What I think Edward is capable of doing with wool is revolutionary. His curiosity is boundless, his technical ability is off the scale, and he’s also making things that are extraordinarily beautiful.”
Nicholas Daley’s collection SLYGO takes its name from Nicholas’ father’s DJ alias and draws direct inspiration from his parents’ club night known as The Reggae Klub, which ran from 1978-1982, in and around Scotland. Preserving the rich heritage of British craft, Nicholas Daley worked closely with established mills in the UK to expand notions of British sartorialism. The SS19 SLYGO collection features bespoke fabrics that underlined Daley's key relationships with manufacturers and mills, creating a bespoke tartan check Merino wool fabric, experimenting knitting with jute yarn mixed with Merino wool yarns, using rubberized bonded merino wool and traditional mackintosh seam-taping techniques. An important aspect of production is to reduce the waste produced from Daley's collections, recycling fabrics to create yarn strips, which will then be knitted into accessories.
“This is an incredible honour,” said Daley. “The International Woolmark Prize has been so important to so many designers that I look up to, so to be given this opportunity is amazing.”
“Nicholas Daley tells such a solid and beautiful story,” said Gert Jonkers about Nicholas Daley. “It’s really catchy for a collection, and it all ties together very well. It’s a story that you can relate to or aspire to, and each individual piece is unique and interesting.”
CMMN SWDN’s signature use of unexpected pairings is at play across all elements of the collection. Well-loved garments are recreated in Merino wool through knowingly awkward proportions and are pared against technical base-layer seamless sheer knits. Treasured hand-me-downs are reimagined in new Merino wool with unravelled traditional Swedish twined knits and superfine Merino wool ‘mended’ together, bonding the layers using a needle-punching technique at Italian knitwear manufacturers Punto Art. The irregular forms of the knit recall the distortions that naturally occur from human hands in the restoration process and are finished with darning, a traditional mending technique.
An oversized double-breasted trench coat in a water-repellent Merino wool coating resembles a favourite piece handed down through the generations with linings extending beyond the raw hem and cuffs as if the garment has shrunk over the years with the lining still intact. Seamless patches feature on tailoring, mapping out areas that typically experience wear by fusing two separate Merino wool suiting wools with a needle-punch felting technique at Portuguese embroidery house, Lisabor. Classic tailoring is reimagined into five-pocket trousers with exposed raw edges and heavy Merino wool twill mimics the appearance of a hard-wearing denim. Silver foil is screen-printed onto five pocket tailored trousers to expose the under layer of Merino by imitating the crease folds and faded areas of a well-loved pair of jeans. Natural hues emphasise a sense of comfort and tactility and are contrasted with accents of metallic silver and lime.
“This is a huge opportunity that opens so many doors to work with some of the most respected manufacturers and suppliers in the world,” said Emma Hedlund, one half of CMMN SWDN. Adds co-founder Saif Bakir: “This is just the beginning and it’s so exciting to now bring to life the sketches and concepts that we’ve started on this journey.”
“I like the way that they are upcycling garments and not having anything going to waste,” said Tiffany Hsu about CMMN SWDN. “The combination of materials is just beautiful and I really want to see this collection commercialised. Aesthetically, I can see this translating to the [retail landscape].”
Chosen from more than 300 applicants from across 46 countries the winners are amongst the most promising fashion design talents from across the globe. The winners are amongst the 12 global finalists announced at three semi-final events in Hong Kong, London and New York held throughout July, who will each gain a financial contribution of AU$70,000 for the development of their business and capsule collection. Finalists will be invited to compete in the prestigious global final to be held in London in February 2019 as well as receiving mentoring support from a global panel of experts, showcasing opportunities and a Woolmark licence, one of the world’s best-known textile quality fibre brands providing a unique, global fibre quality assurance for consumers.
“Now in its seventh year the International Woolmark Prize has evolved into one of the biggest fashion awards of its calibre and so we have restructured the program to ensure our nominees and finalists receive the highest level of industry support and guidance,” explains The Woolmark Company Managing Director Stuart McCullough.
“The exceptional quality demonstrated by his year’s designers not only reinforces the strength of the award but also proves Australian wool’s relevance on the global stage. Wool’s inherent benefits combined with its eco-credentials provide designers with countless possibilities and I am excited to see what innovative designs are showcased at the global final next year.”
For the next seven months, the finalists will be required to develop a capsule collection of six looks in Merino wool, to be showcased at an extraordinary event that will highlight the 12 finalists selected from across the globe.
The Woolmark Company is pleased to have the support of Johnstons of Elgin for the International Woolmark Prize London semi-final event.