For over 60 years, The Woolmark Company has been fostering global emerging talent with The International Woolmark Prize. With a who’s who of alumni, including Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent, Matty Bovan, and 2022’s winner Saul Nash, the coveted award has helped launch countless careers. Still, it’s about so much more than esteem. This year’s theme, Dialogue, has a dual meaning as the company continues to network leading forces of the industry with the next generation of talent while continuing conversations regarding fashion’s sustainable future.
Merino wool, after all, is touted as one of fashion’s more eco-conscious choices thanks to its renewable and biodegradable properties. As this year’s finalists vie for the prize, they’ll first need to develop six Merino wool looks as part of their A/W 23 collection (or a standalone capsule collection), highlighting the versatile fabric. Of hundreds of applicants, this year, it’ll be up to A. ROEGE HOVE, Bluemarble, Lagos Space Programme, MARCO RAMBALDI, MAXXIJ, Paolina Russo, RHUDE, and Robyn Lynch to show off their craft using the brand’s synonymous textile.
From the eight finalists, one will receive the grand prize of AU$200,000 (£112,000) to invest in the development of their business. Another finalist will receive The Karl Lagerfeld Award for innovation AU$100,000 (£56,000). Not just about monetary gains, Woolmark will also give the finalists the opportunity to be stocked at some of the world’s leading retailers via the International Woolmark Prize Retailer Network. The finalists will also receive unparalleled mentorship from some of the industries leading voices including global fashion editor-at-large of Vogue Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, and editor-at-large of Business of Fashion Tim Blanks. We caught up with three of the finalists to ask what winning the prize would mean for their brands.
Bluemarble (Anthony Alvarez), France
'Winning the International Woolmark Prize would mean so much to me. I will share my passion, learn from the IWP family and push the innovation of fabrics and textiles use forward. Bluemarble represents a universal perspective that celebrates the beauty of humanity. I always imagine an ideal world where individuality is voiced and expressed freely. As a finalist, I will aspire to translate diverse influences and perspectives into a shared identity.'
Paolina Russo, UK
'Being a Woolmark finalist means a great deal to us. We were offered a vast network of experts that stimulated our views on innovation and sustainable materials- elements that are at the core of our label. For us, the theme of dialogue made us think about the necessity of opening a conversation on local production and the preservation of craftsmanship within an innovative, fresh, and sustainable making context.'
Robyn Lynch, Ireland
'It would propel and change the trajectory of the brand and business like I could only dream of being able to do. Being a small team of just two it puts vast strains on the speed of growth and opportunity. Although I am extremely proud of where we have gotten to, to have the financial investment, opportunities and access that comes with the IWP would allow us to grow and develop the business structure and designs. To be able to focus further on the sourcing and development of sustainable fabrications and wool yarns. Personally It would be a huge aspiration to be recognised by the industry leaders and represent Ireland.'