Just on the heels of New York Fashion Week: Men’s, I returned back to New York City to attend The Woolmark Company’s annual Woolmark Prize competition. This competition hosts fashion designers from all over the U.S. to compete for the esteemed International Woolmark Prize, which celebrates rising designers that are incorporating Merino wool into their collections.
The first Woolmark Prize was held in 1953, with the aim of highlighting outstanding fashion talents from around the globe who showcase the beauty & versatility of Merino Wool. Some notable past recipients have been Karl Lagerfeld & Yves Saint Laurent! Since 2015, menswear has been judged and recognized independently, so there are two winners for the final prize. Selected from the most promising up-and-coming fashion designers, both the menswear & womenswear are up for the U.S. Regional Final, with a prize of AU$70,000. They will then advance to the global final with a prize totaling AU$200,000 to go towards fabric sourcing and marketing as well as mentoring from fashion industry experts. I was lucky enough to attend the US Regional round this year at New York’s NeueHouse and get a behind-the-scenes peek at how the competition went down. Meet the contestants, menswear designers:
- Death to Tennis – William Watson & Vincent Oshin
- DYNE – Christopher Bevans
- Kenneth Ning
- N-p-Elliott – Nicholas P. Elliott
- Palmiers du Mal – Shane Fonner & Brandon Capps
The International Woolmark Prize awards are judged each year by some of the world’s most notable & respected designers, editors, and fashion buyers. This year was no exception. An acclaimed and talented panel heard every designer’s pitch and conversed with them about the implementation of wool in their garments.
Meet the Judges:
- André Leon Talley
- Laura Brown
- Stefano Tonchi
- Julie Gilhart
- Steven Kolb
- Nick Sullivan
- Michelle Lee
- Thom Browne
And here I am! We snuck this photo while the designers were rotating photoshoots. Zanita, who focused on covering the female designers snapped this! I’m rocking a standard grey Thom Browne suit, a garment that has Merino wool, of course! It was the perfect summer suit and the first suit + shorts combo I’ve ever sported. I gotta say, I’m a fan.
I was really impressed with the concepts and collections presented by each of the menswear designers. Their diversity just proved the versatility of wool. DYNE, a global apparel brand that focuses on fabric, fit, and function presented a technical snowboard outfit that took home the winning prize in the Menswear category. Chris implemented a pretty crazy technology I hadn’t heard of and certainly hadn’t seen yet in apparel. It’s called near-field communication (NFC), and it allows two devices to exchange information wirelessly. In the case of DYNE, bringing your phone in close proximity to the chip within the garment prompts the item in DYNE’s online shop to pop up on your internet browser. To see it seamlessly in action is some pretty futuristic stuff! Chis Bevans said, “First, I’m honored to win this award – everyone at Woolmark has been so positive in helping me understand more about wool and how it works – to win this award has left me speechless.”
After the announcement ceremony ended, we headed to PUBLIC – a beautiful new hotel in Soho – where we enjoyed sunset cocktails and a lovely dinner hosted by The Woolmark Company. It was such a lovely evening and so great to converse with the designers to hear more about their stories, brands, and how they are finding new ways to highlight and implement the use of wool in their collections.