2021 International Woolmark Prize finalists have been unveiled

 2021 International Woolmark Prize finalists have been unveiled

Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

Six emerging fashion designers have been named the next ones to watch for their sustainable and innovative practices by a council that includes supermodel Naomi Campbell, activist Sinéad Burke and Business of Fashion editor-at-large Tim Blanks.

The International Woolmark Prize 2021, with this year’s theme as “less is more,” emphasizes sustainability, innovation, inclusivity and supply chain transparency. Its advisory council has honored British designers Bethany Williams and Matty Bovan, Nigerian designer Kenneth Ize, French-Morrocan menswear label Casablanca, South African designer Thebe Magugu and French Canadian label Lecavalier.
Bethany Williams shows her collection at London Fashion Week Spring-Summer 2020.

Bethany Williams shows her collection at London Fashion Week Spring-Summer 2020. Credit: Isabel Infantes/PA Images/Getty Images

“Now more so than ever, in these incredibly challenging times for our industry, we must continue to support and nurture the emerging voices in fashion design,” said Campbell in a press statement.

Finding creative and socially responsible ways to cut waste, champion transparency and employ hyperlocal artisan techniques is central to these designers’ practices.

The six finalists of the International Woolmark Prize 2021.

The six finalists of the International Woolmark Prize 2021. Credit: International Woolmark Prize 2021

Williams, who creates haute streetwear out of waste and recycled materials, often partners with charitable organizations to raise awareness around issues such as homelessness through her fashion. Ize, meanwhile, works with Nigerian aso-oke weavers to help preserve their traditional techniques. Magugu, who was the first African designer to win the prestigious LVMH prize in 2019, enlists the help of his local community to print and pleat his garments.

Garments that tell a story

Following this announcement, the finalists will present a Merino wool collection with a particular focus on how each garment tells the narrative of its supply chain.

One finalist will be awarded the International Woolmark Prize of AU$200,000 (US$143,000); in addition, the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation, worth AU$100,000 (US$73,000)

The 16 leaders of the IWP 2021 advisory council include supermodel Naomi Campbell, activist Sinéad Burke, Garage magazine fashion director Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, Business of Fashion editor-at-large
Tim Blanks and Vogue Germany editor-in-chief Christiane Arp.

The 16 leaders of the IWP 2021 advisory council include supermodel Naomi Campbell, activist Sinéad Burke, Garage magazine fashion director Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, Business of Fashion editor-at-large
Tim Blanks and Vogue Germany editor-in-chief Christiane Arp.
Credit: International Woolmark Prize 2021

Last year’s winner of the main prize was Richard Malone of Ireland, whose designs have focused on sustainable sourcing and waste reduction since 2014. His winning collection combined Merino wool with plant-based dyes and the handicraft of weavers in Tamil Nadu, India. The winner of the 2020 Karl Lagerfeld award was won by Emily Adams Bode, the designer behind US label Bode.

Thebe Magugu at the "Brave New Worlds" International Fashion Showcase during London Fashion Week in 2019.

Thebe Magugu at the “Brave New Worlds” International Fashion Showcase during London Fashion Week in 2019. Credit: Tabatha Fireman/BFC/Getty Images

The Woolmark Company, which runs the award, sets the quality assurance standards for Merino wool worldwide, and is also known for its quirky ad campaigns, such as a recent video released in China featuring Chinese celebrity Loura Lou with three Merino ewes. Merino wool has a reputation for being environmentally friendly and biodegradable, and the Woolmark Prize aims to advance the material further within the fashion industry by investing in emerging talent.

“The International Woolmark Prize has never been more needed – a conduit to educate and provoke new ideas and ways of working invoking sustainability, accessibility and equity,” said Burke.

This article was updated to correctly name the winner of the 2020 Karl Lagerfeld award.

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