While 2021’s theme was on supply chain innovations – Bovan worked with local suppliers in his hometown of York – next year’s competition comes with a more whimsical prompt: “Play.” In a release, the IWP called it “a true celebration of forward-thinking design and innovation, [calling on] finalists to experiment with textiles, design, and business practices to drive change and innovation for a brighter future.”
It’s an upbeat pivot after our nearly two year pandemic, which found the industry feeling anxious about its future (as well as the planet’s). Transparency is still at the heart of the competition, though, and this year’s group of seven finalists – Ahluwalia, Egonlab, Jordan Dalah Studio, MMUSOMAXWELL, Peter Do, Rui, and Saul Nash – will be expected to dive into their supply chains and find innovative ways to improve upon them.
“Sustainability is the ‘new black’ – today, too many people use this word for marketing purposes,” Florentin Glémarec and Kévin Nompeix of Egonlab tell Vogue. “Greenwashing is a real scourge for the fashion industry and others. This is why it is increasingly complicated for emerging designers to source ethically and sustainably. Thanks to its expertise and transparency in this area, the Woolmark Company is an essential ally,” they continue. “Egonlab aims to improve every aspect of its eco-responsible process. Protecting our home, the Earth, is essential, and we still have a lot to learn about this subject in order to find innovative and respectful solutions for all.”
Rui Zhou echoed a similar sentiment about learning from Woolmark’s supply chain experts: “As a brand that just started our journey, we’re young in experience,” she says. “But with the knowledge this program provides, we hope we can produce more responsibly in the long run, which requires us to engage in a healthy relationship with our supporters, environment, society, and economics.”
“Designers want to make meaningful change, but it all usually comes back to resources,” Saul Nash adds. “I’m incredibly excited about gaining a greater understanding of wool’s potential, particularly through the lens of performance-wear. I’m ultimately interested in function, so exploring non-synthetic fabrics which could perform for movement and sport is a wonderful opportunity.”
Over the next few months, the seven finalists will work with the IWP to develop their collections. The final projects will be revealed in April 2022, and a panel of judges (to be announced) will select winners for the top prize, the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation, and the Supply Chain Award. The finalists will also have the opportunity to stock their collections in IWP retail partners, including MatchesFashion.com, Ssense, Browns, and Net-a-Porter.