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British Designer Matty Bovan Wins 2021 International Woolmark Prize

British designer Matty Bovan has won both the 2021 International Woolmark Prize and the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation, following a special virtual event with a panel of industry experts.

Selected by a panel of judges that included Carine Roitfeld, Ib Kamara, Shaway Yeh, Sinéad Burke, Tasha Liu, Thom Browne, Tim Blanks and Julie Davies, this marks only the second time in the award’s modern iteration that one designer has been awarded the two major prizes.

With the theme “Less is More,” this year’s International Woolmark Prize placed an even greater emphasis on sustainable practices, supply chain connections and future-proofing designs, while also shining the spotlight on Australian Merino wool as a green thread in responsible fashion.

Praised for his technically advanced jacquard weave designs, intricate designs that tell a story, advanced understanding of knit and weave techniques, strong color combinations, and sustainable approach to local sourcing and production, Bovan’s sensibility and conceptual approach to fashion impressed the judges.

“Matty is truly and authentically creative, proving and representing that everything starts from pure creativity,” Browne said. “He is also true to himself as a creative, a true individual and true individuals are the best leaders. For me, there is nothing more inspiring than young artists who are unique and true to themselves.”

Bovan’s “Ode to the Sea” drew inspiration from travelling and escapism–going through a traumatic event and coming out the other side. Based in York, Bovan worked with local suppliers and manufacturers, supporting local businesses, craftspeople and artisans through his tight supply chain network.

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Using roll end cloth from AW Hainsworth, screen printing and hand painting, Bovan gave new life to discarded pieces of fabric. Limited runs in-house turned deadstock fabric into commercial pieces.

A standout was Bovan’s Intarsia knitted garments that look as if they have been blown in severe gales, portraying ghostly figures in black and white, like characters in a TV screen. Created in close collaboration with AW Hainsworth and using images from Bovan’s archives, the resultant fabrics were created from 100 percent merino wool.

“It’s a huge honor to win these prizes and I’m so excited for where it’s going to take me–I was already so thrilled with the Woolmark Prize platform and experience,” Bovan said. “Being a part of the International Woolmark Prize has really helped elevate my brand and elevate my awareness and knowledge of how I operate as a business and as a label. It’s been amazing and I have loved every minute of it.”

Each finalist created a sustainability roadmap and presented traceable collections using technology from platform partner Blue Bite to integrate the garment’s story into their collection. By focusing on transparency and sharing key product information, each designer brought the supply chain to their customer in a way that is trustworthy and accessible.

This year also saw the introduction of the Woolmark Supply Chain Award, celebrating an outstanding contribution by a trade partner and presented to a member of the supply chain. The inaugural award was presented to The Nanshan Group. The China-based manufacturer has a long-standing relationship with the International Woolmark Prize, supporting finalists over the years, working in close collaboration to bring the finalists’ vision to life.

The six finalists for this year’s award were Bethany Williams, U.K.; Casablanca, France; Kenneth Ize, Nigeria; Lecavalier, Canada; Bovan and Thebe Magugu, South Africa.

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 on behalf of about 60,000 wool growers that help fund the company.