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Matty Bovan wins 2021 Woolmark Prize and Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation

By Huw Hughes


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Image: Matty Bovan via The Woolmark Company

The International Woolmark Prize, a prize that celebrates fashion talents working with Merino wool, has this year been awarded to British designer Matty Bovan.

In what was a double win for Bovan, the designer also bagged The Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation, an award introduced in 2019 in honour of the late iconic fashion designer and International Woolmark Prize alumnus.

“It’s a huge honour to win these prizes and I’m so excited for where it’s going to take me - I was already so thrilled with the Woolmark Prize platform and experience,” Bovan said in a release.

This was just the second time in the award’s modern iteration that one designer has grabbed the two major prizes.

“Being a part of the International Woolmark Prize has really helped elevate my brand and elevate my awareness and knowledge of how I operate as a business and as a label,” Bovan said. “It’s been amazing and I have loved every minute of it.”

Matty Bovan wins 2021 Woolmark Prize

Designers this year were tasked with creating and presenting a Merino wool collection - under the theme “less is more” - to highlight transparency throughout the supply chain with NFC technology from partner Blue Bite.

Bovan beat five other top designers to win the Woolmark Prize: Bethany Williams from the UK, Casablanca from France, Kenneth Ize from Nigeria, Lecavalier from Canada and Thebe Magugu from South Africa.

Bovan’s winning ‘Ode to the Sea’ collection drew inspiration from travelling and escapism. The designer worked with local suppliers and manufacturers for the collection which saw discarded pieces of fabric given a new life using roll end cloth from AW Hainsworth, screen printing and hand painting.

A standout was Bovan’s Intarsia knitted garments that looked like they had blown in severe gales, “portraying ghostly figures in black and white, like characters on a TV screen”.

“Matty is truly and authentically creative, proving and representing that everything starts from pure creativity,” said US fashion designer and Woolmark judge Thom Browne.

“He is also true to himself as a creative, a true individual and true individuals are the best leaders. For me, there is nothing more inspiring than young artists who are unique and true to themselves.”

Browne was joined by other fashion heavyweights on this year’s judge panel including Carine Roitfeld, Ib Kamara, Shaway Yeh, Sinéad Burke, Tasha Liu, Tim Blanks and Julie Davies.

This year also saw the introduction of the Woolmark Supply Chain Award, which was presented to China-based manufacturer The Nanshan Group.

International WoolMark Prize
Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation