Meet the finalists of the historic prize.
A-Cold-Wall, Blindness, Bode and Richard Malone are among the 10 finalists shortlisted for the International Woolmark Prize 2020, one of the world’s most prestigious emerging talent programmes. Selected from more than 300 entries, across nearly 50 countries, the nominees follow in the footsteps of previous recipients including Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent and Giorgio Armani.
Most notably for 2020, nominees will not be separated into menswear and womenswear categories. Instead, there will be one winner who will receive AU$200,000, won by British unisex label Edward Crutchley and New York-based husband-and-wife duo Colovos respectively in 2019. The winner of the Innovation Award will also be announced — again, won by Edward Crutchley last time around — who will take home AU$100,000. 2020 marks the first time that all collections must be ‘fully traceable’ to highlight the importance of transparency in the fashion supply chain.
“The finalists demonstrate the growing diversity of the global fashion industry, as well as showing promise in their commitment to sustainable practices,” Stuart McCullough, managing director of The Woolmark Company, tells Vogue. “As always, we hope to not only shine a spotlight on the world’s best emerging design talent, but also showcase the versatility of Australian Merino wool.”
The finalists were selected by the International Woolmark Prize’s advisory council, which includes Vogue.com’s chief critic Sarah Mower, Vogue Germany’s editor-in-chief Christiane Arp, Vogue Italia’s deputy editor-in-chief Sara Sozzani Maino and Vogue Australia’s fashion director Christine Centenera. Each of the 10 finalists will present their collection of six Merino-wool looks to a separate judging panel in London, in February 2020.
“It is always difficult to choose [the finalists] when you have such a diverse array of designers,” says Eco-Age founder and creative director Livia Firth, who is also on the prize’s advisory council. “I [wanted] to make sure we could showcase all sorts of talents to look at what fashion could look like in the future.”
Here, Vogue meets the International Woolmark Prize 2020 finalists:
Since launching menswear brand A-Cold-Wall in 2015, British designer Samuel Ross has gone from strength to strength, collaborating with Nike, Diesel Red Tag and Converse. Now, he is keen to up his green credentials. “Sustainability is an ethos we’ve been filtering into our practice over the past year,” says Ross. “[I want to] expand my knowledge and use of wool as a whole. My approach will be based on reinvention and performance, reconstituting the expectancies of the fibre.”
Founded by Seoul-based duo KyuYong Shin and JiSun Park in 2016, Blindness has made its mark with its genderless designs. The pair now hope to push their design talents further by taking part in the International Woolmark Prize. “We wanted to challenge and develop ourselves with new experiences,” they explain. “Brands have a responsibility of using natural resources for the right purpose.”
Known for her unique, handcrafted designs made from upcycled vintage fabrics, American designer Emily Adams Bode has been a trailblazer in sustainable fashion since launching her eponymous brand in 2016. “Our collections are 40 per cent made from antique materials; a large percentage [are] made from wool circa 1890 to 1940s,” she says, explaining how the brand is incorporating new but natural materials as it scales up. “I’m excited to include newer and more innovative ways of using wool in my capsule collection.”
Since launching menswear brand Botter in 2017, Dutch designers Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh have had a meteoric rise, with the pair appointed creative directors at Nina Ricci in 2018. For them, wool is a core part of their blueprint. “Our storytelling about our Caribbean roots is paired with us exploring the way men interpret formalwear and how we can push the boundaries in shape and fluidity,” they say. “We’ve been working with wool since we first started; we love its different aspects [and] that it can be used to create shape.”
Feng Chen Wang
Chinese-born, London-based menswear designer Feng Chen Wang — who started her brand in 2015 — is an emerging name known for her structured unisex designs. “The [International] Woolmark Prize is a great opportunity to communicate and educate audiences on the beauty and value of my Chinese cultural heritage,” she explains. “[It’s] a global platform that is dedicated to innovation and sustainability.”
Berlin-based label Gmbh, launched by Serhat Işik and Benjamin Alexander Huseby in 2016, emerged from the city’s underground club scene. The brand, which encompasses both menswear and womenswear, is currently in the process of switching from synthetic to natural materials. “We have been using wool as part of [that] programme,” they explain. “One of the biggest hurdles is cost, and convincing customers that the extra price is worth it.”
Ludovic de Saint Sernin
Balmain-alumni Ludovic de Saint Sernin’s spring/summer 2020 collection — called ‘Wet’n’Wild’ — certainly made waves at Paris Fashion Week in June. But you might not have noticed some of the knitwear on show, namely its towel look, which went viral on social media. “[The] towel is an expertly crafted virgin Merino wool piece,” says the Belgium-born designer who launched his brand in 2017. “It’s a fun and sexy way to work with wool that people wouldn’t expect.” Again, responsible sourcing is key for de Saint Sernin, “The yarns are sourced in Italy from the best mills and that way we can trace where they come from.”
Matthew Adams Dolan
New York-based designer Matthew Adams Dolan has a laid-back aesthetic that has won over fans such as Rihanna, who snapped up one of his denim jackets shortly after he graduated from Parsons in 2014. But despite his A-list fanbase, the designer has been keen to build his brand in a conscious manner. “As a young company, I feel there are certain expectations on our practice,” says Dolan. “That is in sync with how we approach consumption on a broader scale; making responsible decisions, and working ethically and with high quality materials.”
Established by brother-and-sister team Dilan and Lezan Lurr in 2017, Swedish-Kurdish menswear brand Namacheko has fast gained acclaim for its reinterpretation of classic pieces, with wool being core to their work. “We have used wool in our collections from the [start],” they explain. “Our approach has been centered around quality and making things that last; [pieces] that can have a second life with many owners.”
The Irish designer, who has championed sustainable practices ever since launching his eponymous brand in 2015, carefully sources yarns from the Himalayas, working with local female artisans to weave them into fabrics. “Opening up our supply chain and sharing the journey with customers is extremely important; the reason I have a business today is because of this traceability,” he explains. “[The International Woolmark Prize] was a natural draw for me; it’s mainly the network and the hunger for collaboration that excites me.”