The 2019 International Woolmark Prize Global Final took place during London Fashion Week, with Edward Crutchley and Colovos receiving the top prizes. Browse the runway looks below.
The key inspiration behind the ‘Pura Interna’ capsule collection is simply to ‘lift the spirits’. Light, in terms of colour, garment structure and fabric weight, the six all-white looks have an ethereal quality and a quiet confidence that lies in their simplicity.
Unbleached, lightweight wool locally sourced from one of the only remaining mills in Australia, celebrates the unique resources of the country. Albus Lumen’s use of small-scale quilting and the textural effects created by mixing Australian Merino wool with linen and silk blends adds subtle yet striking contrasts to the all-white palette, with Afonina focusing on wool’s ability to be a summer and trans-seasonal fibre.
Angel Chen was inspired by the lifestyle, independent spirit and determination of Qiang ethnicity, the shepherds’ community from a region situated between the northwest of Sichuan and the east of Tibet.
For this capsule collection, the inspiration is taken from the Qiang’s typically bright-coloured costumes, as well as from the pattern of a sheep’s head, produced by using traditional handcrafted embroidery technique.
The collection is also inspired by the unisex silhouette and functional details of shepherds’ workwear, by way of using the wool bonded fabric for waterproof, wind-proof, breathable or thermal insulation purposes and double-face wool jersey which enhance wool’s natural benefits and offer protection from the elements.
Chen created a new zero-waste fabric though embroidery, which is digitally programmed so that it can be produced exactly in the right size and fit human bodies. Using wool-blend yarns, Chen also employed the cording technique to create breathable, eco-friendly patterns with a lace-like effect. In additional, Chen’s collection featured wool fur fabrics with the aim of raising awareness to protect animals and instead turn to natural and renewable resources - wool. Taking advantage of wool's rise in the footwear industry, Chen also create wool-rich knitted shoes which offer enhanced warmth and breathability.
Brandon Maxwell's International Woolmark Prize collection is inspired by the country clubbers, sailors, yachters, golfers and power walkers; and also those who would rather look as if they are going to perform an endurance activity but instead opt for a nice glass of champagne at the bar. This collection of essentials was designed to be mixed, matched and layered to create a look suited for various engagements; the fabric technology can handle full activity performance and the design is created to make the wearer look fabulous doing anything or nothing at all. In doing so, Maxwell aimed to create chic athletic-wear where the need for comfort is met with well-constructed design.
Using flat-bed knitting machines for the knitwear, and the latest Optim spinning technology for wovens - creating a 100% wind and water-resistant fabric - Brandon Maxwell developed a utilitarian collection which perfectly fuses fashion and function.
The husband and wife team behind CMMN SWDN, Saif and Emma Bakir, took inspiration from the brand's DNA, promoting conscious design by taking a slower approach to the design process. The duo looks at the importance of being comfortable in one’s own skin, and champion the wellbeing properties of superfine Merino wool as a ‘second skin’ layer, mimicking the comfort of well-worn and well-loved garments that evolve into a second skin over time.
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.
Discarded pre-loved knits are given a new lease of life, mapped out over 100% Merino wool and joined by needle punching. The inherent characteristics of a well-worn knit and Merino as a natural fibre are celebrated through the Shibori felting process to create a tactile surface with irregular forms where felting takes place intermittently.
Colovos is the authentic collective vision of long-time husband and wife collaborators Michael and Nicole Colovos. For the International Woolmark Prize, Colovos references classic wool sportswear and workwear throughout history. Inspired by the vintage knitted tennis, archery and cycling outfits along with 1930s and 40s workwear which pre-dates the advent of synthetic fibres, Colovos has updated this concept with modern proportions and patterning techniques.
With an emphasis on form and function, the casual versatile sensibility of sportswear is complemented by elegant, tailored workwear with a tough yet feminine edge. Sourcing innovative wool fabrications with contemporary finishes that evoke the look and feel of denim and silk, comfortable, effortless and trans-seasonal wool fabrics were created. The wool puffer features a lightweight insulated wool fill that is water and wind resistant and is created without the use of chemicals. The tailored coats, pants and skirts are made from wool that is completely traceable, washable and colour- and shrink-proof.
Daniel w. Fletcher's collection is about youth, growing up and a celebration of the designer's upbringing and heritage. In a time of political uncertainty, Fletcher believes it is up to the youth to fight back and this collection is a uniform to do so, presenting a 1970s-inspired offering of British heritage garments, school uniform tropes and traditional sportswear.
Whilst taking inspiration from British heritage garments, in particular school uniforms and sports kits, this collection takes a modern approach to dressing and rejects tradition in favour of progression. Tailoring is slim and rendered in striped suiting woven with superfine silk stripes and trousers have been split up the sides; a sign of the rebellion to come. Denim-style jackets and jeans are re-imagined with contrast stitching in Merino wool and mixed with sporting base-layers.
Edward Crutchley's work is grounded an innate understanding and appreciation of artisanal textiles. By exploring global cultural references and aspects of material culture he creates garments which explore the boundaries of form, silhouette and surface.
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 within Crutchley's 100% Merino wool winning collection. 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 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, designer Zhi Chen takes the form of intricate yarn swatches in explosive colours whilst drawing on classic elects such as grid, line and point. In her International Woolmark Prize collection, the designer pushes even the most advanced knitting machines to perform pioneering techniques, setting out to revolutionise knitting and change the understanding of its products.
The stunning texture and colour combinations in i-am-chen's collection can easily be mistaken as made with heavy handcraft. In reality, all of Chen’s fabrics are machine knitted in one panel as if they are born this way, natural and pristine.
Challenging misconceptions that knitwear is heavy and warm, i-am-chen changed fundamental knitting structures and created a fabric that weighs a mere 60 grams. I-am-chen was also able to bypass the traditional manual labour needed to create fringing. Instead, she programmed the fringes into the knitting machine which then required only one cut to separate and create the desired effect.
Nicholas Daley's International Woolmark Prize collection, Reggae Klub, takes its name from his parents' club night known as The Reggae Klub, which ran from 1978-1982 in and around Scotland.
Looking at the connection between fashion and music as a motif that’s runs throughout Daley’s International Woolmark Prize collection, he wanted to focus on how Merino wool can be adapted to benefit musicians performing live. For any musician on the stage how they look is just as important as how they feel, and with this in mind, Daley’s aim was striking a balance between style and comfort. 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.
Willy Chavarria concentrates on offering forward-thinking fashion while creating campaigns to support civil rights. His winning collection, Futurismo, expresses a story of an optimistic vision of the future. The Pachuco generation of the 1940s emerged during a time of turbulent racial conflict and created a distinct fashion identity to claim a level of pride and dignity amongst oppressed Chicano and Mexican-American youth. Futurismo pays homage to the evolution of this Chicano style while embracing a new future in which race and gender become less important than human function and sustainability.
With a modern approach to the messaging of sustainability, Chavarria presents the concept of using Merino wool as the ideal natural fibre for comfort, function, and preservation of our livelihood. New fabric developments include a double-layer knitwear fabric to offer properties of moisture wicking, breathability, and climate control. Willy introduces these technical virtues of wool to a new audience, interpreted into fashion silhouettes.
Tokyo-based designer Yohei Ohno turned to summer for his winning collection, drawing inspiration from the striped patterns and classic colours in Agnes Martin's artwork, Charlotte Perriandʼs furniture made from Japanese local materials, and simplicity reminiscent of Bauhaus. The label's signature silhouettes such as structured sleeves and emphasised waists are present in this collection for added definition of female figures. While every piece is distinctive in shapes, the collection celebrates inclusivity, transcending ethnicity - the pieces allow a wearer the freedom and ability to express herself in any way she wants.
Ohno focused on innovating traditional female suiting by creating relaxed, deconstructed but sculptural silhouettes while also reviving summer wool. The collection celebrates contrasts, designed for modern women, marrying this feminine, modest textile with bold cuttings and silhouettes that represent empowerment and confidence. Sourcing wool fabric from leading Japanese mill Bishu was important to Ohno, who strives to both source and produce his collections in Japan.
For menswear label YOUSER, inspiration for the 'As the Wind Blows' collection came from the Native American warrior group, Windigokan, from the Ojibwa tribe living in the plains, known for speaking and acting the opposite of most people.
Using a layered construction similar to how a mattress is manufactured, Youser's fabrics have enhanced warmth and breathability. The brand's use of a reflective thread throughout the garments lights up at night for added safety and also act as a design feature. By laminating wool, Youser was able to create a leather-like texture using 100% Merino wool.