The International Woolmark Prize is back! Eight designers from across the globe have been shortlisted by Aussie wool experts, The Woolmark Company, to create a marino wool capsule collection which will be judged by an esteemed panel of industry experts in a ceremony taking place in London next April.
This year’s finalists include Irish menswear talent Robyn Lynch, Rhuigi Villaseñor’s LA label Rhude, Paris-based Blumarble, Nigeria’s Lagos Space Programme, UK-based Paolina Russo, Maxxij of South Korea, A. Roege Hove of Denmark and Italy’s Marco Rambaldi.
“This group of finalists represents the next generation of creative game-changers, who all want to design fashion for a better tomorrow,” says John Roberts, managing director of The Woolmark Company. “As the fashion and textile industry continues to evolve amongst an ever-changing landscape, we hope that our support throughout the International Woolmark Prize will inspire and propel design and business strategies of our eight finalists.”
Each of the designers will be awarded AU$60,000 to create their collection, supported along the way by the program’s mentoring initiative which will include support from the likes of Farfetch’s chief brand officer Holli Rogers, Vogue’s global fashion editor-at-large Gabriella Karefa-Johnson and Tim Blanks, editor-at-large of Business of Fashion.
One finalist will take home the International Woolmark Prize and a whopping AU$200,000, following in the footsteps of Richard Malone, Edward Crutchley, Matty Bovan and Saul Nash. Another designer will receive The Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation and a AU$100,000 cash prize.
The 2023 prize will be based on the theme Dialogue, reflecting not only a vital element to any creative process, but “The Woolmark Company’s mission to establish dialogue and connect leading design talent with industry players to collectively envision a more sustainable future.”
Responding to the theme, we asked this year’s finalists that if they could pick one of their heroes to have a conversation with about their upcoming Woolmark collection, who would they choose and why?
A. Roege Hove (Amalie Roege Hove), Denmark
“Issey Miyake was one of my biggest inspirations. He also worked within a niche area with very specific textile techniques – I think we could have had a great conversation about this approach and dedication.”
Bluemarble (Anthony Alvarez), France
“If I could pick one of my heroes to have a conversation with about my upcoming Woolmark Prize collection it would be Walt Disney. I am truly inspired by his imaginative genius, which brought people together from all around the world through a shared vision of creativity, fantasy, and discovery.”
Lagos Space Programme (Adeju Thompson), Nigeria
“I would pick iconoclast artist-architect Demas Nwoko, a member of the Zaria Art Rebels, a group of artists who gained prominence in the 1950s while at the Nigeria College of Arts, Science and Technology in Zaria, Kaduna State. Their work aimed for a development of aesthetics, styles and techniques relevant to a new African society.
“I have travelled through the Nigerian Southwest researching Demas’s modernist monuments, such as his syncretic Dominican Chapel in Ibadan (1970). The building, which is dedicated to the Dominican order’s 700 years old history, was a huge turning point in my creative process. It made me realise what was truly possible for design explored within a cultural lens. His design discussed ideas informed by cultural typologies, climate, and aesthetics, highlighting African tradition within a fresh and contemporary style.”
MARCO RAMBALDI, Italy
“Right now, I really think that people like Amanda Gorman make the difference. Reading her poems, our hope grows. It would be nice to talk to her about a future that doesn’t exist yet.”
MAXXIJ, South Korea
“My father was one of my biggest heroes and had the closest impact on me. A conversation with my father always leads to an expanded idea of the future vision.
“My mission as a designer is to push forward the medium of fashion and make innovative move for the future generation. My design journey includes exploring ways with my perspective, never settling for easy answers and in the end the best is always the outcome of overcoming. I hope this challenge will be an opportunity to pursue excellence and innovation and make the most courageous choices.”
Paolina Russo, UK
“Miuccia Prada, so we can talk about the balance between craft and business and take some advice from her experience as a woman in fashion.”
Rhude (Rhuigi Villaseñor), USA
“Charles Darwin or Ernest Hemingway. I would like to see the world as they perceived it to be. The theory of evolution to me is a couture way of thinking and really is the foundation of design. The evolution of existence based on needs in our day to day lives.”
ROBYN LYNCH, Ireland
“I would have to pick Ben Cottrell and Matthew Dainty from Cottweiler. I was an intern with Cottweiler in 2017 when they were IWP finalists and subsequently became the winners. I have such a huge respect for Cottweiler and the ground they broke in the London menswear scene at the time. Paving way for a brand like mine to exist. I think they were leap years ahead of their time and I would love to ask them now five years on from being an intern in their studio to being a fellow IWP finalist their advice as a brand that has gone through the process.”
Photography courtesy of the Woolmark Company.