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Richard Malone wins the 2020 International Woolmark Prize

PHOTOGRAPHY BY THE WOOLMARK COMPANY
WORDS BY JAKE HALPIN

The Irish designer takes out the top prize in one of the world’s most prestigious fashion awards.

Last night in London, The Woolmark Company held the runway finale for the 2020 International Woolmark Prize. One of the most prestigious and financially lucrative fashion awards, this year’s prize focused on fabric traceability and supply chain transparency, with the 10 finalists each designing six looks using fully-traceable Australian Merino wool.

Irish designer Richard Malone was awarded the top honour by the panel of judges, which included fashion industry heavyweights like British Vogue editor Edward Enninful, Dior’s Kim Jones and author and inclusivity advocate Sinead Burke. In addition to the title, Malone also wins $200,000 AUD to continue the growth and expansion of his label, as well as commercial opportunities via The Woolmark Company’s retail network.

For his collection, Malone expanded on the founding ethos of his label – limited-run collections utilising sustainably-sourced fabrics. He worked with skilled weavers in Tamil Nadu, India, to organically dye the fabrics using plant-based dyes (a less intensive and more sustainable way of dyeing fabric). It isn’t the first time Malone has worked with Merino wool either. For his graduate collection at Central Saint Martens, he sourced deadstock wool leftover by large garment manufacturers in Paris.

“Winning the Woolmark Prize is completely unexpected,” Malone said after the show. “It means we can continue working with this supply chain and share our learning with other brands and designers. It also opens up the dialogue of fashion so more people can be part of it.”

Inspired by his upbringing in Wexford, Malone created considered, functional and beautifully-made garments with a focus on minimising his impact on the environment and working towards creating a circular, sustainable fashion ecosystem. The collection was a tonal exploration of both form and fluidity – a combination of both rigidity in structured shoulders and neatly concealed zips in softer shapes and carefully measured drapery layers.

In addition to the titular prize, the first-ever Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation was awarded to American designer Emily Adams Bode for her label Bode and her demonstration of innovation in both design and garment manufacturing. Adams Bode also wins $100,000 AUD in recognition of her label’s significant strides in sustainability and promoting circular fashion. Lagerfeld himself won the award back in 1954 with a collection of woollen jackets, and his legacy of creativity and innovation will be remembered by The Woolmark Company through this inaugural award.

The other eight finalists showcased unique and directional designs. from French designer Ludovic de Saint Sernin presenting a collection of erotic-inspired woollen one-pieces which were finished with Swarovski-crystal chokers, to German label GmbH being inspired by the ability of clothing and fabric to both enhance and protect the body, showcasing body-conforming wrap tops alongside boxy, structured silhouettes. 

Other finalists who join more than 400 Woolmark Prize alumni include A-COLD-WALL*, Blindness, Botter, Matthew Adams Dolan and Namacheko. All finalists will receive the ongoing support and mentorship of The Woolmark Company’s advisory council as part of their Innovation Academy, an initiative to fast-track brands implementing best practices to address environmental and social issues while preparing them for sustainable business growth.

For more information on The Woolmark Prize, head to woolmarkprize.com

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