LONDON — Saul Nash is on a winning streak. The British Guyanan designer was named the recipient of this year’s Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design on Wednesday afternoon, 10 days after taking home the 2022 International Woolmark Prize.
Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, presented the award to Nash on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II during a ceremony, which showcased all the talent support initiatives of the BFC Foundation, held at London’s Design Museum.
A Central Saint Martins and Royal College of Art alumni, Nash was recognized for his “innovative take on design,” and “developing new materials while actively pioneering a new frontier within the industry — imbuing sportswear design with an exploration of heritage, performance and technical innovation,” which was well demonstrated with his Woolmark Prize capsule collection.
The designer collaborated with Knitwear Lab from the Netherlands on high-tech compression pieces made from merino wool with high tenacity for the capsule. It was shown as a part of the designer’s fall 2022 collection during London Fashion Week in February.
“This week has felt like a dream,” Nash said. “To be recognized in this way is an incredible vote of confidence — it would be for any designer, but I feel especially proud as this is a moment of validation for sportswear. The focus of my work has always been to push and open up new possibilities, from tackling preconceived notions of sportswear to attempting to challenge perceptions of gender norms in menswear.
“It’s important to weave my own story into my work, keeping it personal and true to myself.…That remains the ambition — to stay focused on innovation, community and building a conscious practice,” he added.
He is the fifth recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design. Previous winners were Richard Quinn, Bethany Williams, Rosh Mahtani of Alighieri and Priya Ahluwalia.
Since 2018, a designer is selected by the BFC, in collaboration with the Royal Household, each year for the award. The trophy is inspired by the Queen Elizabeth rose and hand-produced by Lucy Price at Bauhinia Studios and in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.
The British Fashion Council revealed that Nash, who is also a professional choreographer, was also chosen for his role as “a cultural innovator whose work opens conversations around identity, masculinity and class.”
Caroline Rush, chief executive officer at the British Fashion Council, said: “Nash has a unique way of combining function, tech and tailoring in his design practice, which has resulted in a new take on luxe sportswear. His work explores the relationship between performance and menswear and is often showcased through beautiful and showstopping choreography. We are incredibly proud to recognize Saul and look forward to seeing his brand grow.”
His namesake label, launched in 2018, made its London Fashion Week debut with Lulu Kennedy’s emerging talent support scheme fashion week in 2020 for three seasons. Under BFC Newgen’s support, Nash began to show solo last October.
The designs, which fall somewhere between luxury, activewear and streetwear, are rooted in his Caribbean heritage and Northeast London upbringing. He often showcases his designs in self or co-choreographed performances, which best demonstrate how they are intended to move.
His fall 2022 collection was presented alongside a video, which was set in one of London’s first West Indies barbershops in Kensal Rise, where Nash felt he truly connects with his heritage.
“Creating sportswear, it’s always about bringing it to this place in between where I come from and where I’m going to. For me, the most time I kind of had interaction with my culture was in the barbershop,” he told WWD at the time.
Elements that stood out included a motif of a mermaid, which is considered a benevolent deity in Caribbean culture; a print made from a Guyana flag waving across a projector, which Nash thinks reflects the landscape of the lush country and embodies the mood of carnival-style celebration, and sneakers Nike especially made for the show with soles made from components of deadstock.
Nash has also been short listed as a semifinalist for the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers last year, and was granted funds from this year’s BFC Newgen scheme, alongside 21 other designers.