FLORENCE — The Woolmark Co. upped the ante this season, presenting not two, but three, awards to emerging designers from around the world.
In addition to the men’s and women’s wear winners, the 2018 edition of the International Woolmark Prize marked the presentation of the inaugural Innovation award. This award was created in partnership with Future Tech Lab and rewarded the brand with the most innovative and creative wool fabrication, process or development.
Dyne, a collection of high-tech men’s wear created by Portland, Ore.-based Christopher Bevans, scored the Innovation award and $100,000 Australian dollars.
The other winners were Bodice by Ruchika Sachdeva for women’s wear, and Matthew Miller for his self-named men’s line. Bodice had won the regional final for India, Pakistan and Middle East, while Miller had won the British Isles competition. Sachdeva and Miller will receive 200,000 Australian dollars, or $153,400, to help fund the development of their businesses.
The winners were revealed during an event at Stazione Leopoldo following the first day of the Pitti Uomo show here.
Inspired by designer and philosopher Dieter Rams, Miller incorporated multifunctional elements in his collection such as a belt system that converted a garment into an accessory. He also treated wool in a variety of ways that included water-resistance and eliminated the need for plastic fastenings by using recycled material, such as waste marble.
Vogue Italia editor in chief Emanuele Farneti said Miller’s collection “showed a good combination between innovation, commercial viability and pieces which will be worn by men on the street.”
Sachdeva collaborated with hand weavers and Indian dye firms to create her collection, which also sourced buttons from renewable sources of coconut shell, seashell and wood.
Designer Phillip Lim called the collection “completely thoughtful. From the ingredients and dyes used all the way to the application and everything in between, her collection really represents a modern woman.”
“This is a huge opportunity to expand on what I do and keep doing it,” said Sachdeva. “To get the chance to work with these retailers is incredible.”
Bevans offered a collection of snowboarding garments including a water-resistant wool jacket embedded with an NFC that can track users in the event of an avalanche.
“For me he was definitely the leader in innovation,” said Miroslava Duma, founder of Future Tech Lab. “The NFC chips he embedded in his collection, and the fabrication of the snowboard gear, really stood out. He really thinks about technology every step of the way.”
Bevans said to be recognized for innovation is especially meaningful for him. “We pride ourselves on pushing the limits and it’s important to tell this story so other creative designers can also embrace innovation.”
“Today we saw the world’s best emerging designers present a true celebration of fashion design and innovation, as they shone the spotlight on Australian merino wool,” said the Woolmark Co. managing director Stuart McCullough. “Each year, the competition has been fierce and this year was no different. I would also like to commend the mills and spinners who supplied the labels with luxury fabrics and yarns and assisted in the development of innovative fabrications.”
More than 65 designers from over 60 countries were nominated for this year’s award, with finalists representing six regions around the world.
The award was judged by a panel that included Amber Valletta, Elizabeth von Guttman, Emanuele Farneti, Julie Davies, Livia Firth, Liya Kebede, Miroslava Duma, Nonita Kalra, Phillip Lim, Riccardo Vannetti, Sarah Mower and McCullough, along with representatives from the International Woolmark Prize retail partner network.
In addition to the cash prize, the winning designers will find their collections carried at stores around the world, including David Jones, Harvey Nichols, Hudson’s Bay, Lane Crawford and others.