There were tears of joy amongst a crowd of friends and collaborators as Saul Nash took home this year’s International Woolmark Prize. Presented in a ceremony at London’s 180 The Strand, the menswear designer – whose namesake label strives to expand the language of activewear through functional fabrics and innovative design, informed by his background as a dancer – was awarded a AUD200,000 cash prize, alongside the opportunity to be stocked at renowned stores globally thanks to the the International Woolmark Prize Retailer Network.
Nash, who first made an impression showing under Lulu Kennedy’s Fashion East talent incubator, first presented his winning merino capsule collection amongst his AW22 offering in February. Titled The Ritual, the collection was inspired by the designer’s Guyanese heritage and the folklore tales of his childhood.
“I did a lot of knitwear in my master’s, but when I left university to start my brand, it was something I had to put on hold for a moment because I couldn’t find the right manufacturing, and the materials I used didn’t lend themselves well to knitwear,” said Nash after his win. “What’s beautiful about knitwear is that it’s only helped me advance what I was doing. In terms of activewear, wool is such an amazing material for it. For wicking, and for temperature control – the experience helped me find that this was the right material for me to explore.”
In creating the collection, which has breathable, thermo-regulating, moisture wicking and antibacterial qualities, Nash has been able to work alongside a series of Woolmark specialist partners, who he is already planning to collaborate with moving forward. “I’m all about technical innovation with garments, that’s the beauty of wool, it’s going to dip in and out of my range for the rest of my career as a designer,” he says.
When it comes to the prize money, expanding his team is Nash’s biggest priority. The designer plans to employ someone to work solely on research and material innovation. “Seasons come so quickly. As you grow, you need that support around you,” he says.
Amongst the seven prize finalists, which included Ahluwalia, Peter Do, Jordan Dalah, Egonlab and Rui, was South African duo Mmusomaxwell, who won the Karl Lagerfeld Prize for Innovation and an impressive AUD100,000. The label is lauded for its marriage of technical advancements with traditional, handwoven techniques.
Both prizes were chosen by an esteemed judging panel that included Riccardo Tisci, Pieter Mulier, Naomi Campbell, Edward Enninful and Ib Kamara. This year’s prize also saw Woolmark team-up with the Isamu Noguchi Foundation, as well as FKA Twigs who created a visionary short film for the ceremony.
Photography courtesy of International Woolmark Prize.