Woolmark Prize 2019 BLINDNESS Bode BOTTER Feng Chen Wang GmbH Ludovic de Saint Sernin Matthew Adams Dolan Namacheko Richard MaloneWoolmark Prize 2019 BLINDNESS Bode BOTTER Feng Chen Wang GmbH Ludovic de Saint Sernin Matthew Adams Dolan Namacheko Richard Malone
This Year’s Woolmark Prize Finalists Speak on Being Shortlisted
A-COLD-WALL*, Bode and Feng Chen Wang give us the rundown.

The International Woolmark Prize is renowned as one of the fashion world’s most prestigious awards. First launched in 1953, the prize awards designers for their ingenious use of wool. Past winners include everyone from fashion royalty like Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld to more recent winners Public School and Edward Crutchley.

Today marks the announcement of the latest 10 finalists and the selection is as wide-ranging as ever. The names chosen are as follows:

A-COLD-WALL*; BLINDNESS; Bode; BOTTER; Feng Chen Wang; GmbH; Ludovic de Saint Sernin; Matthew Adams Dolan; Namacheko; Richard Malone.

We spoke to five of the designers selected to find out their feelings about taking part in the competition, their plans for the winnings and why they enjoy working with wool.

Woolmark Prize 2019 BLINDNESS Bode BOTTER Feng Chen Wang GmbH Ludovic de Saint Sernin Matthew Adams Dolan Namacheko Richard Malone

A-COLD-WALL*

 

How does it feel to be a finalist?

It feels great – being shortlisted as a finalist. The Woolmark Prize’s brand-consciousness is high, working with such a partner feels in line with my personal value system.

What interests you about working with wool?

Wool’s malleability. The interest goes beyond words with such a material.

How do you see yourself combining your signature style with the use of wool?

I see the result clearly, a refined approach to form and menswear construction.

Woolmark Prize 2019 BLINDNESS Bode BOTTER Feng Chen Wang GmbH Ludovic de Saint Sernin Matthew Adams Dolan Namacheko Richard Malone

Bode

 

How does it feel to be a finalist?

Honored. My intention is to educate and preserve the use of historic textiles and techniques, and the Woolmark Prize celebrates those ideas while pushing innovation and sustainability in the industry.

What interests you about working with wool?

Before the Prize, I was most interested in the female histories of the use of wool, through quilting, embroidery, and appliqué. Since working with the Wool Lab at Woolmark and seeing their connections with suppliers and manufacturers, I am most excited about utilizing new finishing techniques and educating myself about the overall supply chain of wool today and applying that to the capsule collection.

How do you see yourself combining your signature style with the use of wool?

I have begun designing the capsule and am focusing on new ways of weaving, knitting, and finishing wool combined with my love of patchwork and embroidery. This collection is allowing me to apply storytelling and traceability at a new level to how I designed and told my narratives before the Prize.

If you win, how do you plan on using the money?

I would invest in growing our direct-to-consumer business in both e-commerce and retail, which continues to inch closer to matching our wholesale sales with 104 global retailers. I want to be able to capitalize on this demand properly without losing sight of our partners and the quality, sustainability, and narrative of our collections. I would continue to focus on scaling my own manufacturing space, where we produce 40% of our collection made from antique materials.

Woolmark Prize 2019 BLINDNESS Bode BOTTER Feng Chen Wang GmbH Ludovic de Saint Sernin Matthew Adams Dolan Namacheko Richard Malone

Feng Chen Wang

 

How does it feel to be a finalist?

This is a great opportunity to communicate and educate audiences on the beauty and value of my Chinese cultural heritage with a global platform that is dedicated to innovation, sustainability and support. When launching SS18’s “Made in China” Collection, the brand was described as being an “international Chinese brand” and this made me realize that by sharing my Chinese cultural heritage I could become an ambassador and help redefine the definition of “Made in China.”

What interests you about working with wool?

I’m looking at how we can manipulate and combine yarns with other fabrics to create technical, bold and structured designs, but we have to find the right balance of innovation and price. I’m curious about the impact merino wool has on our emotions and feelings, of the hidden human and emotional connections.

If you win, how do you plan on using the money?

It is a dream of mine to communicate and share my stories and heritage to a wider audience, where customers can make informed and educated decisions that create closer, authentic connections and experiences. I believe customers would be encouraged to purchase our products knowing that by growing our business and sales it would support local artisans and communities.

One of our goals is to create more opportunities for our manufacturers, where techniques can be passed down to younger generations; possibilities where they can expand studios and workshop facilities through continued business relationships with Feng Chen Wang.

Winning the IWP would open a window of opportunities to continue collaborating on various projects with larger partners in the industry that could increase our brand awareness and help share our stories and products. It would increase our opportunities to develop the “ART PROJECTS” initiative – to continue scouting local artisans with different skills and invite younger generations to learn and pass on knowledge.

Creatively, it would provide an opportunity to collaborate with manufacturers and suppliers from the Woolmark network that are keen to explore, research, learn and teach innovative new techniques.

Woolmark Prize 2019 BLINDNESS Bode BOTTER Feng Chen Wang GmbH Ludovic de Saint Sernin Matthew Adams Dolan Namacheko Richard Malone

Ludovic de Saint Sernin

 

How does it feel to be a finalist?

I am so excited to be a finalist this year for the Woolmark Prize! And I am even more excited to work on the capsule for them. It’s so special to have this opportunity to create a collection especially designed for the prize using only wool.

What interests you about working with wool?

First of all, wool is such a beautiful and unique fiber that has amazing properties that totally makes sense for my brand. It’s soft, sensual and natural and feels amazing against the skin. My collections are always quite body conscious so it’s only natural that I work with wool. And I love the idea of challenging the way people see wool and work with it in expected ways.

How do you see yourself combining your signature style with the use of wool?

Like I said, I can’t reveal too much just yet, but it will be for sure body focused. I love how sensual and soft wool can be and that’s where I want to go for that capsule. Every season now we do these cut outs tops in knitted wool that have become a signature of the brand. For AW19 we had this piece called the Tits Out Cardigan which had this cut out on the torso revealing the model’s pecs and nipples and for SS20 we did a variation of that top this time as a twisted shirt revealing only one nipple. It’s a sexy and cheeky way to work with wool but it’s always done in an elegant way and using only the most luxurious materials.

If you win, how do you plan on using the money?

Winning the Woolmark Prize this year would be such a huge accomplishment for me as a brand. We’ve been going for two years and it feels like we’re doing really well, but there is so much more that I want to do. Having that money would allow me to expand my team to develop womenswear which is a big goal for me as the demand from our female customer is huge right now. Also developing accessories and pushing the swimwear!

Woolmark Prize 2019 BLINDNESS Bode BOTTER Feng Chen Wang GmbH Ludovic de Saint Sernin Matthew Adams Dolan Namacheko Richard Malone

Matthew Adams Dolan

 

How does it feel to be a finalist?

It’s very exciting to be included in such a talented pool of designers and to be a part of the prize. I think that having opportunities like this, and to be able to have discussions about responsible practice together are a vital part of making changes in the industry.

What interests you about working with wool?

Wool has been an important part of our collections for the past few seasons, and it’s exciting to be able to have access to the Woolmark Company’s partners and the wool lab to see new developments and explore how wool as a textile can be used and celebrated in the future.

How do you see yourself combining your signature style with the use of wool?

Wool as a textile has a long tradition and history and I’m interested in exploring that story and really looking at the diverse applications of it and how it’s qualities can be manipulated in a variety of ways, especially by looking at new developments in spinning and weaving.

If you win, how do you plan on using the money?

The prize money would really have a big impact in being able to strategically grow the company.

Woolmark Prize 2019 BLINDNESS Bode BOTTER Feng Chen Wang GmbH Ludovic de Saint Sernin Matthew Adams Dolan Namacheko Richard Malone

Richard Malone

 

How does it feel to be a finalist?

Exciting, invigorating, informative. I’m excited to open up a dialogue with this incredible network of farmers and spinners and factories, and to challenge what we perceive as valuable or luxurious. It’s really exciting, and the prize extends beyond the money, it’s about connections and future proofing our industry. Working on tracing our whole supply chain feels really exciting and something I’ve personally been doing since day one.

What interests you about working with wool?

So much. Its history, the process of making, the journey it takes to become a luxurious product or fabric. I think educating or at least opening these doors to customers and fans is so exciting, and to really involve them in our growth and in our challenges. Honesty and transparency are a huge part of genuine sustainability and conscious fashion, it’s vital.

How do you see yourself combining your signature style with the use of wool?

I use wool religiously. A lot of my business is custom tailoring and the wool pieces have always been popular. I’m excited to continue these developments and create something new. I love organic dyes and really slow beautifully woven wools, so I hope to develop these ideas. I’m also looking closely at circularity and ensuring my clothes can be absorbed in more ways than just conspicuous consumption.

If you win, how do you plan on using the money?

Development and education. I invest heavily in new fabrics all of the time. Developing low-impact alternatives to popular fabrics or working with weaving guilds that ensure employment and education, from recycling textiles to reimagine our production scraps – the prize is a real way for me to push a lot of ideas through. My business model is extremely untraditional, but it’s always been honest and transparent.

I’ve worked hard to grow slowly and at my own pace, and to avoid the tropes of hype that can be so damaging. The Woolmark prize fits perfectly as it isn’t a vanity project. It is a real, tangible asset to us in terms of human connections with mills and weavers and farmers, and that is essential to a small business hoping to make a big difference. As a brand that survives largely on made-to-order, it’s a way for us to allow everyone else in.


 
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