The Woolmark Company's International Woolmark Prize is gearing up for its 2021 edition. After receiving applications from more than 380 designers from 55 different countries, the selection process has whittled down the number to just six—its most concise number of finalists since 2014's five.
The 2021 International Woolmark Prize's advisory council—who were tasked with deciding on the final six—is made up of a diverse range of fashion experts across editorial, design, styling, and more. Among the 16 experts are fashion designer Manish Arora, fashion critic Sarah Mower, Business of Fashion's editor-at-large Tim Blanks, educator and advocate Sinéad Burke, as well as supermodel and activist Naomi Campbell.
The six finalists were chosen based on their talents and commitment to the International Woolmark Prize's focus on product excellence, innovation, supply-chain transparency, sustainability and inclusivity. As part of the final judging process, each designer will present a Merino wool collection that highlights transparency throughout their supply chain with NFC technology from the prize's partner, Blue Bite, and a Common Objective (a networking innovation that connects fashion businesses with sustainable resources) sustainability roadmap. The collections are to be themed around 'less is more' as a celebration of slow and responsibly produced design and craftsmanship.
At the end of the day, three prizes will be given out—the main International Woolmark Prize, the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation, as well as the debut of a new award, the Woolmark Supply Chain Award. In addition to the different cash prizes, all finalists will also have the opportunity to be stocked in some of the world's leading retailers as part of the International Woolmark Prize Retailer Network.
Here's what you need to know about the six finalists of the 2021 International Woolmark Prize:
Designer: Marie-Ève Lecavalier
Stockists: SSENSE, Selfridges, and more
Aesthetic: Riddled with nostalgic references, and with an experimental take on materials and craftsmanship, such as knitted leather derived from combinations of different deadstock leathers.
Designer: Kenneth Ize
Established: 2013; relaunched in 2016
Stockists: MACHINE-A, idea by sosu, Browns, and more
Aesthetic: Collaborating with artists and craftsmen within Nigeria, Kenneth Ize is recontextualising and modernising Nigerian craft through fabrications and the techniques used.
Designer: Bethany Williams
Country: United Kingdom
Stockists: Farfetch, Browns, Galeries Lafayette Paris, and more
Aesthetic: Socially and environmentally conscious, Bethany Williams works with collaborates with social enterprises and charities for each collection, creating lively and colourful pieces made of reworked, found materials.
Designer: Charaf Tajer
Stockists: Mr Porter, SSENSE, MATCHESFASHION, and more
Aesthetic: While Tajer comes from a streetwear background (collaborating with and consulting for brands the likes of Pigalle, Off-White and Supreme), Casablanca is steeped in luxurious cuts, signature resort-like prints and fabrications that combine to form an undeniably chic aesthetic.
Designer: Matty Bovan
Country: United Kingdom
Aesthetic: Always vibrant, wild and never takes itself too seriously. Matty Bovan's illustrations and prints have also graced brands such as Marc Jacobs and Coach.
Designer: Thebe Magugu
Country: South Africa
Stockists: Dover Street Market, 24s, MATCHESFASHION, and more
Aesthetic: Taking reference and inspiration from African culture and art, Thebe Magugu's designs are often sleekly crafted with impeccable tailoring that plays with proportions and silhouettes.