LONDON — Richard Malone and Bode have been named winners of the International Woolmark Prize 2020 for their outstanding ability to showcase the beauty and versatility of merino wool.
A panel of judges, which included Dior Men’s artistic director Kim Jones, educator Sinead Burke, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami and China’s sustainability advocate Shaway Yeh, chose the winners from among 10 finalists, including A-Cold-Wall, Blindness, Bode, Botter, Feng Chen Wang, GmbH, Ludovic De Saint Sernin, Matthew Adams Dolan, Namacheko and Richard Malone. They were selected from 300 applicants from 47 countries.
Malone won the grand prize, with a cash price of 200,000 Australian dollars, for his commitment to traceability in the supply chain and sustainable business practice.
Emily Bode took home the inaugural Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation from Carine Roitfeld, a close friend of the late designer. Bode will also be awarded 100,000 Australian dollars.
Their winning collections will have the opportunity to be sold globally at high-end department stores including Harvey Nichols, Lane Crawford, Hudson’s Bay — and online.
Malone wasn’t prepared for his win. “I had no idea this is gonna happen. I wasn’t even near my models,” he said at the ceremony during London Fashion Week. His winning collection features orange, blue and green textile rich women’s wear looks made with wool from small farm in the U.K. and Australia that can be traced back to a single sheep.
“I came from a farming place in the Ireland. My reaction to working at Paris luxury houses and seeing how fashion is consumed felt quite unnatural to me. So I am always very aware of the environment and it’s a natural development for me really,” Malone said.
Bode said her innovation comes from reassessing her business model. “What we have been successful at the last three and a half years is changing the way the industry responds to reproducing historic techniques and repurposing vintage and deadstocks. Leaning toward our suppliers and all the craft people we work with as close as possible is what makes our garments unique,” she said. Her wining looks were featured in her Paris show in January.
China’s Yeh praised Malone, Bode and Samuel Ross for their thorough understanding on sustainability. “They let me believe that the younger generation don’t see sustainability just as a trend. They shed a different light on the topic in a systematic and creative way,” she said
Soo Joo Park, a Korean model who came to the preview, said she is also glad to see a fashion competition like the International Woolmark Prize is using the platform to promote sustainability and upcycling. Her personal favorite is Malone. “He started from the beginning, finding a sustainable form that can grow. Everything he does is bio-degradable,” she said.
Edward Crutchley, the winner of men’s wear as well as the innovation award from last year, said it’s interesting how so many designers this year focus on supply chain and reusing existing materials. “It’s less about what the future of wool can be, but how we can integrate more in the present,” he added.