From water-resistant outerwear to wool denim, the 12 finalists of the 2018/19 International Woolmark Prize not only show the diversity of wool’s applications, but actively push its existing boundaries, too. Here, a preview of their innovations.
“I wanted to create a dreamy collection with a sense of tactile luxury,” says designer Marina Afonina of a collection of sun-bleached coral, chalk and oyster tones and light-as-shadow fabrics. Baroque pearls adorn Modernist silhouettes and Merino wool and silk blends, drawing on Moroccan, Egyptian and Grecian cultures.
Inspired by the independent spirit of female deep-sea diver Haenyeo from the Hado Village of South Korea, Chen cleverly demonstrates how Merino wool can be used as a light, fine, protective and versatile fibre. Functional details, such as the water-proofing and wind-proofing of outerwear, lend a utilitarian underscore to the eye-catching palette of vivid pink, yellow and green.
While the New York-based designer is well-known for glamorous eveningwear, Maxwell is conscious that his customer is multifaceted. His International Woolmark Prize collection, then, aims to satisfy her wardrobe needs, blending athleisure and elegance in wool-rich looks.
“In a time of digital complexity, our collection demonstrates an appreciation for craft and the art of visible mending – a celebration of imperfections by highlighting the landscape of damage to a garment.” The designers behind Swedish label CMMN SWDN believe that repaired garments, with their scars and worn appearance, are more beautiful than when in their original state, a reminder of its interaction with human hands. Here, they’ve mended together varying weights of Merino wool, contrasting sharp tailoring against seamless technical knits.
The designers behind Colovos are keenly aware of their environmental footprint and the functionality that today’s consumers demand, and as such, they’ve worked with mills that are using socially responsible production cycles. Together, ground-breaking innovations such as non-shrink treatments that allow for washability, crease-resistance and optimal colour rendering make wool both softer and easier to wear.
“This collection is about youth, growing up, and is a celebration of my northern heritage,” says the designer of his 1970s-inspired collection of British heritage garments, school uniform tropes and traditional sportswear.
“This collection places its focus firmly on wool as a medium of cultural and personal expression,” says the British designer of his entry. “Through a variety of innovative finishing techniques, I hope to highlight the huge versatility of wool as a vehicle for both commercial and design-led ideas, whilst continuing my strong belief in a cross-cultural approach to inspiration.”
The paintings of artist Agnes Martin provided the starting point for I-AM-CHEN, and while Martin expresses her emotion in a hidden manner through shapes and lines, Chen’s takes the form of intricate yarn swatches in explosive colours. In her International Woolmark Prize collection, the designer pushes even the most advanced knitting machines to perform pioneering techniques.
Designer Nicholas Daley’s collection is inspired by the musicians and artists with whom he regularly collaborates, and as such, he’s built the best of British craftsmanship and manufacturing into the collection.
“My International Woolmark Prize collection intends to express kindness and respect for the future, by utilizing sportswear technology and joining it with classic uses of Merino wool,” says Chavarria. In the collection, elements from 1940s Pachuco culture, 1990s Chicano culture and 2090s Futurismo align to create a beautiful expression of optimism.
“When visiting Bishu, the most famous textile manufacturing region of Japan and also my hometown, I found a really special woven wool textile from 30 years ago with a light, summer weight,” says Ohno, and while the fabric has since been discontinued, the look and feel was so contemporary that he sought to remake it in a heavier weight. “I think these fabrics and this region need to be treasured and supported as much as possible.”
Windigokan are one of the Native American warrior groups in the Ojibwa tribe living in the Great Plains area known for speaking and acting the opposite of most people. “This collection was motivated by the thoughts of how Windigokan ignored standard principles and portrayed random behaviour as if they were influenced by nature’s energy,” says the Korean designer. “These designs inspired by thinking of the opposite of what we are accustomed to as being formal will give a unique taste to the collection.”