Saul Nash was announced the winner of the 2022 International Woolmark Prize at a special event held in London on Tuesday as the Fashion Institute of Technology is setting the stage for its next student design showcase.
MmusoMaxwell was awarded the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation. The winners each receive 200,000 Australian dollars ($142,709) and 100,000 Australian dollars ($71,355), respectively, as well ongoing support from the industry and Woolmark Prize retail partners.
“It’s 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 U.K.,” said award jurist and supermodel Naomi Campbell. “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. 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.”
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 colorful, architectural displays.
Each six-look Merino wool collection represented forward-thinking design, with finalists experimenting with textiles, design and responsible business practices to drive change and innovation for a cleaner, brighter future.
“The International Woolmark Prize is the jewel in our crown,” The Woolmark Company managing director John Roberts said. “It connects our Australian woolgrowers 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.”
London-based Nash was praised for his modern use of Merino wool, bridging a gap between active solutions and more formal requirements.
“Everyone did a great job and could have been a winner,” said jurist Riccardo Tisci. “But what Saul did, coming from a ballet background to replace Lycra with wool was really incredible.”
With a focus on minimizing waste and emphasizing movement and performance, Nash’s modern interpretation of knitwear challenged preconceived ideas surrounding sportswear.
“Words cannot describe what this means to me,” Nash said after the announcement. “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.”
From South Africa, MmusoMexwell’s winning collection was committed to reducing its environmental impact and upskilling traditional craftsmanship.
“I love what MmusoMaxwell is doing and how they explain their work,” judge Carine Roitfeld said. “They have a dream and what they are doing is not just for South Africa, but for a modern, Western woman. I think Karl would have loved to have spoken with them today and am sure he would be very happy to give this award to them.”
Sourcing local raw materials and end-to-end production, MmusoMaxwell took an artisanal approach to its collection. Each item promoted 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.
“Winning means everything to us,” said MmusoMaxwell designers Maxwell Boko and Mmuso Potsane. “It allows us to continue working with artisans and to further explore with Merino wool, which is fantastic for us.”
Celebrating an outstanding contribution by a trade partner, this year’s Supply Chain Award was presented to Netherlands-based Knitwear Lab. A research and knowledge hub for innovative, design-driven and sustainable knitwear solutions, Knitwear Lab was recognized for its contribution to the International Woolmark Prize and for giving access to technology and R&D in flat-bed knitting to emerging brands in a way that is specific to their needs. Standout developments included innovative Merino wool fabrics developed with Nash, such as a compression wool hybrid jersey/airtex mesh knit or a double-faced jersey with integrated mesh holes, offering high stretch, strength and breathability.
Knitwear Lab also further developed its relationship with finalist Ahluwalia, exploring her concept of Nollywood through innovative knitwear true to the Ahluwalia brand.
The Woolmark Company’s Innovation Academy has provided finalists with a robust education and mentoring program, offering unparalleled access to International Woolmark Prize partners, manufacturers and mentors across the supply chain who have supported the designers’ product development, research, business and sustainability strategies. The program fosters more meaningful and sustainable product outcomes for both the designer and the manufacturer.
In addition, each finalist completed a Common Objective Sustainability Policies and Roadmap as part of a commitment to better industry practices.
Finalists will now continue their International Woolmark Prize journey, joining a prestigious alumni of more than 400, and will be presented with commercial opportunities Woolmark’s Retail Partner Network.
The Woolmark Company is a subsidiary of Australian Wool Innovation, a not-for-profit enterprise that conducts research, development and marketing along the worldwide supply chain for Australian wool.
Macy’s x FIT
Meanwhile, FIT is gearing up for a May 11 Macy’s-sponsored runway event showcasing fashion created by designers graduating this year from the New York City school’s fashion design BFA program.
“We are thrilled to partner with FIT to present this year’s Future of Fashion runway show,”said Nata Dvir, chief merchandising officer for Macy’s, which will sell one standout student look in its Herald Square flagship. “Every day Macy’s inspires customer to own their style with the nation’s best brands. We are proud to promote and embolden the next generation of prolific designers while offering our customers one-of-a-kind products.”
With the runway show returning after a three-year hiatus and Macy’s partnering with the event for the first time, the retailer will also recognize designs focused on three progressive areas under the inaugural showing of its Bold Representation Awards. Suzanne Anderson, vice president of design apparel, and Michelle Wang, vice president of retail diversity strategy for the department store retailer, will honor select student garments with awards centered on the Best Use of Sustainable Materials, Most Commercial Look, and Most Inclusive/Gender Neutral Design.
In addition to Anderson and Wang, who will jointly adjudicate student looks, judges include Kesha McLeod, image consultant and wardrobe stylist; Emilia Petrarca, senior fashion writer for The Cut; Nicole Phelps, global director for Vogue Runway; and Zanna Roberts Rassi, co-founder of Milk Cosmetics and a style host on the E! entertainment network.
Nearly 200 students received mentorship during the spring semester from a range of industry experts covering five specializations. Knitwear critics include Jason David Mahler, associate vice president of design for Victoria’s Secret and Stacey Tester, senior design director at Coach.
Sportswear mentors include Jeffrey Dodd, fashion designer at his namesake label, Jeffrey Dodd, Danielle Elsener, fashion designer for Decode, Kimberley Gordon, creative director and designer for Selkie, Sally LaPointe, womenswear designer at LaPointe, Jacky Marshall, design consultant, and Mary Ping, founder and fashion designer for Slow and Steady Wins the Race.
Flora Backer, founder and designer of Rya Collection, offered expertise on intimate apparel. Keith Lissner, executive vice president of design for Vera Wang, and Andrea Pitter, founder and designer for Pantora Bridal and the winner of the second season of ‘Making the Cut‘, lent their insights on special occasion wear, while Halla Elias, founder and designer of Halabaloo, mentored students on childrenswear. Together these experts will call out 12 Critic Award winners during the runway show.