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Edward Crutchley and Colovos win Woolmark Prize

by Danielle Wightman-Stone
17 Feb 2019

British fashion designer Edward Crutchley and New York-based label Colovos have been named the winners of this year’s International Woolmark Prize at a ceremony during London Fashion Week, after impressing a judging panel that included designer Alber Elbaz and actress Gwendoline Christie, who presented the honours.

Crutchley, who has a unisex label, impressed with his “innate understanding and appreciation of artisanal textiles” stated Woolmark and was awarded with the International Woolmark Prize for menswear, as well as the Innovation Award, which celebrates the most “innovative or sustainable approach to systems production, materials, textile design or product design”.

“I think it speaks volumes that there is a such a clear consensus on the winner of the International Woolmark Prize this year for Menswear and Innovation,” said Tim Blanks, one of the judges, in a statement. "I don't think there's ever been a designer like Edward Crutchley in the competition. I find the whole idea of him being a winner and the figurehead of creative innovative use of wool in the fashion industry so exciting. I can't wait to see what's going to happen."

The global competition challenges emerging designers to use Australian Merino wool in innovative and creative ways, which Woolmark Company managing director Stuart McCullough stated at the catwalk event was a great way to showcase how “luxury can be sustainable” while also “lifting the value of Merino in the Northern hemisphere”.

British designer Edward Crutchley wins International Woolmark Prize for menswear and innovation

Crutchley’s winning capsule collection explored global cultural references and aspects of material culture, with the British designing impressing judges by pushing the boundaries of form, silhouette and surface, by fusing a biker jacket with an 18th Century frock coat and reimagining grungy tie-die on an American college knit with the help of the head of Kyoto Guild of Shibori Masters to reference the cowboy's role within America's identity.

“This win means everything,” expressed Crutchley. “It has changed my life forever. It's going to change the way I design and approach everything. I'm incredibly flattered.

“All of these references come together in a collection made from 100 percent Merino wool. I have used a wide range of techniques that celebrate the touch of the artisan. My approach to innovation within this collection has been very much focused on artisanal skills and how these can be celebrated and used in a relevant and modern way. Every fabric I have used is exclusive and developed solely for this collection.”

American label Colovos wins International Woolmark Prize for womenswear

Taking the womenswear accolade was husband and wife duo Michael and Nicole Colovos with their capsule collection inspired by classic wool sportswear and workwear throughout history with added modern proportions and patterning techniques.

"Colovos’ work stood out for its quiet evidence," explained Floriane de Saint Pierre, one of the grand final judges. "Its pure design aesthetics, genuine functionality and the amazing and innovative use of super-light wool, combined with the founders’ attention to sustainability, make them deserve this great award and recognition.”

The duo impressed not only with the designs but also their sourcing of innovative wool fabrications with contemporary finishes that evoked the look and feel of denim and silk, as well as producing tailored coats, trousers and skirts that were all made from wool that is completely traceable, washable and colour and shrink-proof.

“Our goal was to create a luxury, modern collection with a fully sustainable proposition,” explained Michael Colovos. “We are committed to principles of zero waste in manufacturing, so all production waste and end-of-life garments will be recycled to create new fabrics, a process that uses steam, heat and citrus to breakdown the fabric waste and create a new fibre to be spun into fully recyclable yarns.”

International Woolmark Prize unveils winners during London Fashion Week

Both Crutchley and Colovos were awarded 200,000 Australian dollars, to help support the development of their business, with Crutchley awarded an additional 100,000 Australian dollars for winning the Innovation Award. Both winning labels will receive ongoing industry mentor support, as well as 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 Harvey Nichols, Lane Crawford, Hudson’s Bay, David Jones and online at MyTheresa.com.

The Woolmark Company, managing director Stuart McCullough, added: “The International Woolmark Prize is an award for the future leaders of the industry, an industry that is rapidly changing to meet the demands of a changing consumer, climate and resource availability,” explained.

“The level of talent we saw today from all 12 designers was exceptional. Each and every one pushed the limits of the fibre, of their design and of the manufacturers they worked with.”

The two labels beat off tough competition from the other finalists that included: Nicholas Daley (menswear) and Daniel W Fletcher (menswear) representing the UK; for the US there was Willy Chavarria (menswear) and Brandon Maxwell (womenswear); for Sweden there was Cmmn Swdn (menswear); Youser (menswear) from Korea; for Australia Albus Lumen (womenswear); I-Am-Chen (womenswear) representing Hong Kong; for Japan Yohei Ohno ( womenswear); and for China, Angel Chen (unisex).

The final 12 were chosen from more than 300 entrants from across the world.

“There were 12 great designers today from around the world,” said Alber Elbaz. “It was quite wonderful to see designers from places like Korea, China and Sweden, because sometimes in fashion we think everything happens in Paris, so this was a reminder that the world is big and fashion comes from everywhere around the world.”

Images: courtesy of Woolmark