Four of the 12 global finalists for the 2018/19 International Woolmark prize were announced in London on Tuesday, Daniel W. Fletcher, Nicholas Daley and Edward Crutchley, all of whom are from the U.K., and Cmmn Swdn from Sweden. They will go on to compete for the final award, which will be held in London in February.
The big reveal came during a lunch at Somerset House in London on Tuesday, with the victorious designers now preparing to elaborate on their collections ahead of the final. All five designers — Cmmn Swdn is designed by Saif Bakir and Emma Hedlund — cast wool in the starring role of their very different collections.
The prize showcases international young talent with designs that highlight the versatility of merino wool. Each finalist will be awarded $52,100, and over the course of the next few months, they’ll work on producing a capsule collection that will be judged in February.
Crutchley, who designs a signature collection that shows in London and who also works with Kim Jones at Dior, said he was interested in how cultures express themselves through textiles. He worked with a mix of Breton lace and Javanese batik, and looked at Kabuki, cowboy and biker culture.
His collection, composed of six looks, was 100 percent wool, and he used a variety of treatments and textures. He plans to develop and produce the collection for the final.
Fletcher looked instead at “growing up and creating a uniform for the youth of today.” He said his collection was partly an homage to his hometown of Chester, in northwest England. He took wool, put it through a spinning and stretching process before weaving, and turned it into a water-repellent, wind-proof fabric.
He also created “sculptural scarves” by weaving fine wire with Super 140 lightweight wool. The scarves can be worn and sculpted to look as if they are blowing in the wind. The designer said he liked the idea of capturing a moment in time.
The final awards will be granted to a men’s wear and a women’s wear finalist and the two winners will receive $148,860 in further funding, mentorship from international experts, a Woolmark license, and the opportunity for their winning collections to be stocked in International Woolmark partner retail stores including Harvey Nichols, Lane Crawford, Mytheresa.com and Hudson’s Bay Co.
A third finalist will be selected for the second edition of the Innovation Award, which recognizes the most creative and innovative processing methods for merino wool. The winner of that prize will receive $74,400.
Daley said he was inspired by his Scottish-Jamaican heritage and by his parents, who ran one of the first reggae clubs in Scotland. His wool pieces, which include base layers, crewneck and rollneck sweaters, have wicking and odor-eating properties and are also stretchy. He said he was thinking of how musicians could keep cool and comfortable when they are on the road or performing.
He also worked with Tricker’s on shoes and with Christys on Baker Boy hats, and created a merino wool tartan check, which he worked into an oversized coat.
Bakir and Hedlund, meanwhile, played with the idea of “visible mending” and pre-loved garments. “There is ‘dissolved’ knitwear that’s been fused together — and an appreciation of imperfection,” said Hedlund. The pair also worked with needle punch felting and seamless patching, and said they created “colourful scars” on clothing.
They also distorted proportions on a coat to make it look like a hand-me-down, and added raw edges and droopy linings to enhance the second-hand charm of the clothes.
The four European finalists announced in London on Tuesday join the first four, who were chosen earlier this month in Hong Kong. They are Zhi Chen of I-Am-Chen from China; Mooyeol Lee of Youser from South Korea; Yohei Ohno from Japan and Angel Chen from China.
The remaining four will be revealed later this week in New York.
The competitors follow in the steps of designers including Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent — who won the prize in 1954 — and contemporary designers Cottweiler, Christian Wijnants and Teatum Jones.