The winners of the 2019 International Woolmark Prize will be celebrated at Milan Fashion Week, with a dedicated space at the Fashion Hub Market to showcase the winning designers’ collections. For the 2018/2019 prize, New York-based Colovos won the women’s wear category, and Edward Crutchley took both the men’s wear and innovation prizes, the latter of which was introduced last year.
The annual competition held by the Woolmark Company showcases designers who exhibit “design excellence” using Australian Merino wool. Woolmark has been noted as instrumental in launching the careers of Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent. Established in the 1950s, the International Woolmark Prize has appeared in many variations over the years. The current iteration debuted in 2012, and includes both a menswear and womenswear category. The innovation prize was introduced during the 2017/2018 season, and is awarded to “the collection with the most innovative and creative wool fabrication, process or development” that also “demonstrated the most exciting approach to help reduce its social and environmental footprint.”
This year, the judges included Laura Brown, editor-in-chief of InStyle; Sinead Burke, contributing editor at British Vogue; Julie Davies, general manager of processing innovation at Woolmark; David Fischer, founder of Highsnobiety; and actress Gwendoline Christie.
Semi-final events for the competition were held during Hong Kong, London and New York Fashion Week. The winning designers were announced during London Fashion Week. From Feb. 20-24, during Milan Fashion Week, the Woolmark Company and Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (CNMI) will provide the winners with a dedicated space at the Fashion Hub Market. The hub is meant to support emerging designers from around the world.
Edward Crutchley was awarded the menswear prize thanks to his exploratory use of wool to fuse specific cultural references with unique and inspiring silhouettes. Crutchley’s designs featured tie-dye inspired knits, Javanese court dress batik prints, and regal, column-like silhouettes. Crutchley also took home the innovation prize, thanks to the groundbreaking techniques his team used to create new fabric textures and blend cultural signifiers.
The New York-based brand Colovos paid homage to vintage sportswear and workwear with the winning womenswear collection. Husband and wife Michael and Nicole Colovos founded the company in 2016 touting a sustainable, minimalist approach to fashion. In their collection for the Woolmark Prize, Colovos used special finishes to give garments a silky feel and comfortable lightness. The result is unique fabrications breathing new life into classic garments and sophisticated silhouettes.
Along with the award, Edward Crutchley and Colovos will each receive $200,000 Australian dollars ($143,380) to help support the development of their business, and Crutchley will receive an additional $100,000 Australian dollars ($71,690) for the innovation prize. Both companies will receive Woolmark certification for their winning collections, support from a network of mentors, and the opportunity to be stocked in shops and boutiques like David Jones, Parlour X, Harvey Nichols, and Hudson’s Bay.
“The International Woolmark Prize is an award for the future leaders of the industry, an industry that is rapidly changing to meet the demands of a changing consumer, climate and resource availability,” said the Woolmark Company managing director Stuart McCullough in a statement. “The level of talent we saw today from all 12 designers was exceptional. Each and every one pushed the limits of the fiber, of their design and of the manufacturers they worked with.”