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International Woolmark Prize winners announced

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

10 Jan 2018

British designer Matthew Miller was among the winners at this year’s International Woolmark Prize, which presented a special event during Pitti Uomo at Stazione Leopolda in Florence.

Miller was named the menswear winner of the 2017/2018 International Woolmark Prize for his “well-balanced collection” that saw the British designer taking the idea that ‘form follows function’ to add multifunctional elements for different environments, such as the addition of the garment belt system which acts as a way to turn the garment into an accessory in warmer climates.

The British designer also treated the Australian Merino wool in a variety of ways, including innovative treatments to create water resistant fabrics and he erased the need for plastic fastenings by using recycled material, such as waste marble in his collection.

Commenting on Miller’s collection, Vogue Italia editor-in-chief Emanuele Farneti, who sat on the judging panel, said: “He showed a good combination between innovation, commercial viability and pieces which will be worn by men on the street."

Miller added: “Winning this award is amazing, it’s a dream come true. To be listed alongside the previous winners of this prize is next level.”

Matthew Miller and Bodice named International Woolmark Prize winners

The event also saw Indian label Bodice by designer Ruchika Sachdeva scooping the womenswear prize, as judges praised her collection for technique and the manufacturing process. Inspired by her grandmother who used to upcycle saris into quilts, Sachdeva addressed the issue of consumer waste in fashion with traditional techniques of recycling and cultural beliefs in the spiritual power of cloth to affect our wellbeing.

Sachdeva collaborated with hand weavers, encouraging them to take an unorthodox approach to traditional techniques to produced an elegant collection honouring Australian Merino wool and the artisans of her country. In addition, she also worked with Bio-Dye in Sawantwadi, central India, which makes all colours from natural sources, as well as using renewable sources including coconut shell, seashell, and wood for her buttons.

Womenswear designer Phillip Lim, who was on the judging panel, said he thought Sachdeva's collection was "completely thoughtful”, adding: ”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 Bodice designer Sachdeva on her win. “To get the chance to work with these retailers is incredible.”

The Woolmark Company managing director Stuart McCullough, added: “The world’s best emerging designers present a true celebration of fashion design and innovation, as they shone the spotlight on Australian Merino wool.

“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.”

Both Miller and Bodice will each receive 200,000 Australian dollars to help support the development of their business. They will also receive ongoing industry mentor support, Woolmark certification for their winning collection and the opportunity to be stocked in some of the world’s most prestigious department stores and boutiques, including Boutique 1, Boon The Shop, David Jones, Harvey Nichols, Hudson's Bay, Lane Crawford, Leclaireur, Mytheresa.com, Ordre, Parlour X, Ssense.com, Sugar and Tata Cliq Luxury.

Dyne crowned winner of inaugural Innovation Award

There was also a prize celebrating innovation in design, the inaugural Innovation Award sponsored by Future Tech Lab, which was awarded to American designer Christopher Bevans of Dyne, who used an NFC chip in a water-resistant wool bomber snowboarding jacket to track users in avalanches to help bridge the gap between the brand and the consumer.

“For me he was definitely the leader in innovation,” said Miroslava Duma, founder and chief executive of the 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.”

Commenting on his win, Bevans said: “It’s an honour, we pushed so hard and to be recognised for this is incredible. It doesn’t get more special.”

As winner of the innovation award, Dyne will receive 100,000 Australian dollars along with commercial opportunities.

This year’s International Woolmark Prize saw more than 65 designers from over 60 countries nominated, with the finalists representing six different regions around the world. The global finalists were SixLee and Kye (Asia), Blair Archibald and Harman Grubiša (Australia and New Zealand), Matthew Miller and Le Kilt (British Isles), L'Homme Rouge and David Laport (Europe), Antar-Agni and Bodice (Indian Subcontinent and Middle East) and Dyne and Zaid Affas (USA).

Image: courtesy of the International Woolmark Prize