The London Fashion Week isn’t the only notable thing to come out of the British fashion capital the past week. Last Saturday, the Australian Woolmark Company flew all the way to the Big Smoke to announce the winners for the prestigious International Woolmark Prize. The night declared winners to be Edward Crutchley, one of the most anticipated designers to hail from the United Kingdom, and Nicole and Michael Colovos, the brains behind US-based brand Colovos. Crutchley and Colovos each get 200,000 Australian Dollars for the recognition, plus 100,000 more for the former for also bagging the Innovation Award. They join the ranks of previous winners such as Karl Lagerfeld, Ralph Lauren, Yves Saint Laurent and Giorgio Armani.
Crutchley’s entry that led him to winning the Woolmark Prize for menswear was a worldly collection, as the pieces were inspired by traditional prints and textiles from all over the globe. Besides his version of the tie-dye which the designer says has an Australian surf vibe with a grungy twist, there were garbs that call to mind the bogolan or the Mali mud cloth, French lace and batik from Indonesia. He also sought international experts, having his knits dyed by the Kyoto Guild of Shibori Masters. What truly set Crutchley apart though, was his choice to make the collection entirely 100% wool—he challenged himself to make different styles and textures from the material without resorting to blends.
Actor Colin Firth presented both the Menswear and Innovation awards to Crutchley, who in turn expressed his gratitude to Kim Jones, currently the artistic director for Dior Homme. Crutchley, who also works for Dior, was thankful that Jones gave him the time he needed to fully work on his own collection. The designer did not want to work in a rush, and is not in a hurry to take his label to the next level either. The substantial amount he received for winning not one but two prizes from Woolmark may eventually be allotted for the designer brand’s growth, but Crutchley is willing to see where things will take him.
Meanwhile, the Womenswear prize was awarded to the husband-wife duo behind Colovos, a brand that has been around for almost three years now. For their collection that is teeming with blues, Nicole and Michael Colovos focused on making wool as versatile as denim, and even giving some of the pieces a similar look. It was an out of the box thinking for the label, turning wool more of a part of an everyday attire rather than just occasionally taking it out for something special. The winning Colovos entry was also sustainable just as the label has been in the beginning, even way before going eco-friendly became cool. Winning the much coveted prize, Colovos intends to put their Australian dollars for the development of their e-commerce, and perhaps expand into producing menswear.
The two winners were chosen over the other 10 finalists, a list that is completed by Nicholas Daley, Daniel W. Fletcher, Willy Chavarria, Angel Chen, Yohei Ohno, Albus Lumen, Youser, I-Am-Chen, CMMN SWDN and Brandon Maxwell. The set of judges is just as diverse, with Alber Elbaz, Laura Brown, Sinéad Burke, Tim Blanks and Gwendoline Christie just some of the names tasked to come up with the night’s winners.
The International Woolmark Prize is more than just recognizing exceptional designers and promoting one of Australia’s major exports as it is also about helping local wool growers. The award, which has been around since 1953, remains one of the industry’s top distinctions. Besides the cash prize, designers will also have their winning collections sold at Woolmark’s partner retailers. Crutchley and Colovos will soon see their pieces available for purchase at Lane Crawford, Hudson’s Bay, Harvey Nichols and MyTheresa.
Image credits: The Woolmark Company, Steph Wilson, WWD, Colovos