British menswear designer Saul Nash was named the 2022 International Woolmark Prize winner at a special event held in London on Tuesday.
As the winner, Nash will receive 200,000 Australian dollars in prize money, alongside mentoring from Woolmark to scale his business and the chance to have his collection stocked at leading stores via the International Woolmark Prize Retailer Network.
Nash, who has become a firm favourite on the London fashion scene for his immersive presentations and innovative collections, beat off tough competition from the International Woolmark Prize finalists, which included Ahluwalia, Peter Do, Rui, Jordan Dalah, EgoLab and MmusoMaxwell.
This year’s theme was ‘play’ and each finalist was challenged to experiment with textiles, design and progressive business practices “to drive change and innovation for a more conscious future”. Nash created a collection that highlighted the benefits of Merino wool in activewear, with a focus on minimising waste and emphasising movement and performance.
Nash was praised by the judging panel, which included Burberry’s chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci and Alaïa creative director Pieter Mulier, for his modern use of Merino wool, which they added bridged a gap between active solutions and more formal requirements. Highlights included compression wool hybrid jersey/airtex mesh knits and a double-faced jersey with integrated mesh holes, offering high stretch, strength and breathability.
“Everyone did a great job and could have been a winner,” said Riccardo Tisci in a statement. “But what Saul did, coming from a ballet background to replace lycra with wool was really incredible.”
Commenting on his win, Nash said: “Words cannot describe what this means to me. In such a short space of time, I am so grateful for what I have gained in the past eight months. This really is the cherry on top for everything Woolmark has done for me."
Nash worked with Netherlands-based Knitwear Lab, a research and knowledge hub for innovative, design-driven sustainable knitwear solutions to develop his 100 percent Merino wool fabrics, and they scooped the Supply Chain Award.
Mmusomaxwell wins Woolmark’s Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation
Alongside Nash, South African label Mmusomaxwell, from design duo Maxwell Boko and Mmuso Potsane won the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation and 100,000 Australian dollars for its collection committed to reducing its environmental impact and upskilling traditional craftsmanship.
Mmusomaxwell took an artisanal approach to its collection, sourcing local raw materials and end-to-end production, and highlighted how each item promoted slow and small batch production to counteract the over-consumption pandemic and allows for greater product traceability. The jury praised the design duo for their passion, courage and commitment to introducing a new skillset to South African manufacturers.
Carine Roitfeld on the jury said: “When you meet certain people you immediately have love at first sight. I love what Mmusomaxwell is doing and how they explain their work. They have a dream and what they are doing is not just for South Africa, but for a modern, western woman. I think Karl would have loved to have spoken with them today and am sure he would be very happy to give this award to them.”
Mmusomaxwell designers Maxwell Boko and Mmuso Potsane added: “Winning means everything to us. It allows us to continue working with artisans and to further explore with Merino wool, which is fantastic for us. It’s mind blowing.”