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Woolmark Prize Finalists 2023 – Who We Like and Why

This year’s prize theme “Dialogue” reflects The Woolmark Company’s mission to establish conversation and connect talent with industry figures to create a more sustainable fashion future. They are not just looking at knitwear designers although wool will obviously be the material used.

Each 2023 finalist will receive an initial $60,000 Australian dollars ($39,559) for the development of a Merino wool collection and will be supported by the program’s education and mentoring initiative, the Innovation Academy, which includes mentoring from industry leaders, including Holli Rogers, chief brand officer, Farfetch; Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, global fashion editor-at-large, Vogue, and Sara Sozzani Maino, scouting and educational initiatives advisor, Vogue Italia and international brand ambassador Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana; Sinéad Burke, educator and advocate; Shaway Yeh, founder, YehYehYeh and group style editorial director, Modern Media Group, and Tim Blanks, editor-at-large, Business of Fashion.

One finalist will be awarded the International Woolmark Prize and receive $200,000 to invest in their business while another will be awarded the Karl Lagerfeld Award For Innovation and receive $100,000. All finalists will have the chance to be stocked at the world’s leading stores and join an impressive alumni network which includes the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino Garavani, and Gabriela Hearst.

Below are the eight this year –up from 6 finalists in the past. Three women, five men. All of the women have a substantial knitwear background. The men vary. Why do we mention this? Because as knitwear in general is something that has been dominated by women or considered “women’s work” we’ve noticed when it comes to recognition and being supported there seem to be more men. We think this is important to point out and not unlike say ballet where the vast majority of dancers are women and choreographers men… but I digress.

A. ROEGE HOVE

WHO: A. ROEGE HOVE by Amalie Røge Hove

Background + Education: From Denmark, Masters in Textile Design from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Knitwear designer for Cecilie Bahnsen amongst others

As Described by WoolmarkPrize: Defined by an experimenting and intuitive way of working with traditional knitwear techniques, the brand challenges our perception of shape and pushes our expectations of the materials and their behaviour. Each style is engineered and created to minimize waste for the production to have a natural responsibility in mind throughout the entire process.

Drawing on a rich culture of Danish design and craftsmanship, each piece is produced in Denmark, Ireland, or Italy to ensure the level of quality and sense of responsibility that is inevitable for the future of fashion. This also allows each collection to maintain the level of artistic quality and feel of craftsmanship as well as pushing what is possible for knitwear production.

Our Take: Anyone who thinks sustainability can’t be sexy hasn’t seen A. ROEGE HOVE. Semi-sheer bodycon knits dominate her current collection. The interesting cuts of the fabric seem to reference her interest and sculpture. They also remind me of how dancers regularly cut their tights into shrugs or bra tops. This irregularity feels fresh and vibrant.


Bluemarble

WHO: Bluemarble by Anthony Alvarez

Background + Education: Based in Paris, Alvarez studied economics at Cornell University and lived in New York and London before returning to Paris to launch is menswear brand.

As Described by WoolmarkPrize:
Bluemarble is a vast and free-spirited vision propelled by exploration and youth culture. Led by Anthony Alvarez, the brand aspires to translate diverse influences and perspectives as a shared identity. With its bold yet wearable approach every collection is a convergence of versatility and joyful energy.

Materials are frequently sourced from deadstock and jersey is organic. Certain accessories involve repurposing as a way of using whatever is on hand. Eco-minded initiatives are being explored and implemented on an ongoing basis.

Interest in how his grandmother collected and wore Japanese fashion developed alongside an early instinct towards the clothes associated with various outdoor sports. Skate, surf, travel, and music are ongoing obsessions that shape the Bluemarble vibe and vision.

Our Take: Bluemarble is not a knitwear brand although there are a few knitwear pieces in the collection. Overall the current collection is quite colorful with more purple and leopard print than we normally see in a men’s collection. Nothing about sustainability with this brand. We’re underwhelmed and suspect the designer’s savvy from a background in finance combined with PR giant KCD and brand accelerator Tomorrow LTD behind him is keeping this afloat.


Lagos Space Programme

WHO: Lagos Space Programme by Adeju Thompson

Background + Education: From Nigeria and based in Nigeria, Adeju studied art and fashion in the UK but had to drop out because they couldn’t afford the tuition. (perhaps lucky because LSP would not necessarily have happened) Also LVMH Prize semi-finalist

As Described by WoolmarkPrize:
Founded in 2018, Lagos Space Programme aims to explore African futures through a lens informed by slow fashion and by dissecting the intersection of Thompson’s life experiences, thereby communicating ideas of individuality, and proposing new ways to understand beauty.

Thompson aims to continue centuries-old conversations around design practices. This is because the transfer of knowledge and the acknowledgment of cultural and traditional techniques reinterpreted in modern contexts are at the core of their ethos as well as sustainability, reducing inequalities amongst communities, fair pay, local sourcing, responsible production and consumption.

Our Take:
Confession. We are slightly obsessed by this non-binary fashion outsider with mad creativity and hope to interview Adeju soon! (we hope you see this Adeju!)

We love their commitment to slow fashion. ‘We will never conform to the fashion system. We will instead find ways to make the system work for us,’ is part of their manifesto. Also the thoughtfulness of each collection –not just in terms of materials but ideas. i.e. The inspiration behind the Project 7 collection is to highlight the similarities between western tailoring codes and the romance of traditional indigenous aesthetics of dress. While the collection is not all knitwear the pieces are handknitted and dyed with natural indigo.


Marco Rambaldi

WHO: Marco Rambaldi

Background + Education: Based in Italy

As Described by WoolmarkPrize:
In the era of mass production, where quantity overcomes quality, Rambaldi strongly believes in people and in their ideas.

The label’s mission is to find excellence in materials processed by the skilled hands of Italian artisan workshops and share it with the world. Marco Rambaldi offers a total look, with a focus on knitwear and outerwear, including dresses, tops, shirts, skirts, trousers and T-shirts.

In Rambaldi’ s creative vision, the world of the Italian bourgeoisie of the seventies, collides in its repetitive daily expressive codes, with a radically young, emotional, transversal, new aesthetic. In Marco Rambaldi’ s narrative there is at the same time a sense of annihilation and a necessary need for survival, synthesis of opposites, love for the present.

Our Take:
Super bright, super color knits and crocheted pieces will evoke strong reactions. You’ll either hate them or find the perfect piece for dopamine bliss. Rainbows and hearts and knit pants and halters for everyone!


Maxxij

WHO: MAXXIJ
Background + Education: Based in South Korea

As Described by WoolmarkPrize:
MAXXIJ’s artistic vision focuses on experimental design with futuristic and boundary-pushing aesthetics. By using fashion as a medium MAXXIJ collection embodies the idea of “act of wearing fashion itself could be an act of art”.

Focusing on menswear structure and tailoring, MAXXIJ features conceptual designs with avant-garde silhouettes, technically strong details, multi-fabric constructions and an innovative combination of colours.

Blending creative journey with craftsmanship MAXXIJ offers unbridled beauty with forward vision of high fashion.

Our Take:
No knitwear or any talk of sustainability. There is a video of Korean girl pop group Black Pink wearing MAXXIJ on the brands Instagram and other clothes that look like they might be popular with the Hypebeast crowd. Make of this what you will.


Paolina Russo

WHO: Paolina Russo by Paolina Russo + Lucile Guilmard
Background + Education: Canadian designer based in London, BA from Central Saint Martins

As Described by WoolmarkPrize:
Her namesake label was founded in 2020 and is a nostalgic, rose-tinted supercut of her suburban upbringing. Tapping into memories of youth sports teams and DIY arts-and-crafts projects inform both the production and aesthetic of Russo’s avant-garde garments – stitching together a medley of upcycled and unconventional materials in jarring colour combinations.

In 2022, French designer and fellow CSM graduate Lucile Guilmard joined the brand as a co-designer. Blending Russo’s roots in craft techniques with Guilmard’s contemporary cutting methods, Paolina Russo returns to the playful brashness of adolescence. The brand’s practice has been increasingly defined by considered craftsmanship, sustainability, and innovation in textile development.

Russo has refined the energetic playfulness of her work and leaned into her exploration of technical knitwear, developing her signature illusion knits, which have the visual effect of holographic images.

Our Take:
Super sophisticated + innovative. We love the holographic style patterns and the asymmetrical skirt hems. This is a label that really knows and understands knitwear and we look forward to seeing what they do next.


RHUDE

WHO: RHUDE by Rhuigi Villaseñor

Background + Education: Based in Los Angeles, CA
 
As Described by WoolmarkPrize:
RHUDE is a design venture balancing luxury techniques with streetwear elements, showcased as ready-to-wear collections.
Designed from a narrative standpoint RHUDE is both a reflection of modern socioeconomics and personal stories as Villaseñor came to Los Angeles. Now a recurring theme season-to-season, RHUDE combines American iconography with nostalgic references, a visual commentary on Los Angeles style and culture itself.
RHUDE’s journey parallels Villaseñor, chronicling the evolution of a man from adolescence to maturity, a narrative reflecting each collection both the Creative Director and the brand continues to grow up with its ever-expanding fanbase.
 
Our Take: LA menswear


Robyn Lynch

WHO: Robyn Lynch
Background + Education: Irish, based in London. MA in menswear from the University of Westminster, textile degree from the National College of Art and Design in Dublin

As Described by WoolmarkPrize:
Robyn Lynch is an Irish menswear designer based in London. Her eponymous label’s brand ethos and aesthetic is a celebration of Irish culture. The namesake designer pays tribute to her roots with a youthful style of silhouette, such as her method of merging traditional Irish cable knit with sportswear and technical garments.

Robyn Lynch’s light-hearted approach to Irish references and culture runs parallel to the brand’s aesthetic for knitwear and silhouette.

Our Take:
We love the humor in her work. And think it really works because it’s coupled with some sophisticated design. This is a designer who really knows how to design and make things unique.

–Katya Moorman


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