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2021 International Woolmark Prize sees UK’s Matty Bovan win double

Tom Bottomley
10 June 2021

The UK’s Matty Bovan has been announced as the winner of both the 2021 International Woolmark Prize and the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation, following a special virtual event with a panel of industry heavyweights.

Selected by an illustrious panel of judges including Carine Roitfeld, Ib Kamara, Shaway Yeh, Sinéad Burke, Tasha Liu, Thom Browne, Tim Blanks and Julie Davies, it marks only the second time in the award’s modern iteration that one designer has been awarded the two major prizes.

With the theme ‘Less is More’, this year’s International Woolmark Prize placed an even greater emphasis on sustainable practices, supply chain connections and future-proofing designs while shining the spotlight on Australian Merino wool as the “green thread” in responsible fashion.

Judge and French fashion editor, former fashion model and writer, Carine Roitfeld, who was Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Paris for 10 years between 2001 – 2011, said: “He is pure fashion, he makes me dream and he reminds me of a young Vivienne Westwood or a John Galliano and we desperately need that sort of designer in the fashion world of today.”

Praised for his technically advanced jacquard weave designs, unique style, intricate designs which tell a story, advanced understanding of both knit and weave techniques, strong colour combinations and sustainable approach to local sourcing and production, Bovan’s sensibility and conceptual approach to fashion certainly impressed the judges.

Judge and American luxury fashion designer, Thom Browne, commented: “Matty is truly and authentically creative, proving and representing that everything starts from pure creativity.

“He is also true to himself as a creative, a true individual and true individuals are the best leaders. For me, there is nothing more inspiring than young artists who are unique and true to themselves.”

On scooping both awards, Bovan said: “It’s a huge honour to win these prizes and I’m so excited for where it’s going to take me – I was already so thrilled with the Woolmark Prize platform and experience.

“Being a part of the International Woolmark Prize has really helped elevate my brand and elevate my awareness and knowledge of how I operate as a business and as a label. It’s been amazing and I have loved every minute of it.”

Matty Bovan

Matty Bovan’s ‘Ode to the Sea’ collection draws inspiration from travelling and escapism – going through a traumatic event and coming out the other side.

Based in York, Bovan worked with local suppliers and manufacturers, supporting local businesses, craftspeople and artisans through his tight supply chain network.

Using roll end cloth from AW Hainsworth, screen printing and hand painting, Bovan gave new life to discarded pieces of fabric. Limited runs in-house turned deadstock fabric into commercial pieces. Standout pieces include Bovan’s intarsia knitted garments that look as if they have been blown in severe gales, “portraying ghostly figures in black and white, like characters in a TV screen.”

The other five finalists for this year’s award were Bethany Williams from the UK, Casablanca from France, Kenneth Ize from Nigeria, LECAVALIER from Canada and THEBE MAGUGU from South Africa.

Each finalist created a sustainability roadmap and presented traceable collections using technology from platform partner Blue Bite to integrate the garment’s story into their collection via NFC Chips. By focusing on transparency and sharing key product information, each designer brought the supply chain to their customer in a way that was “trustworthy and accessible.”

This year also saw the introduction of the Woolmark Supply Chain Award, celebrating an outstanding contribution by a trade partner and presented to a member of the supply chain. The inaugural award was presented to The Nanshan Group. Innovation makes Nanshan a leader in the industry and offers infinite possibilities to wool. The China-based manufacturer has a long-standing relationship with the International Woolmark Prize, supporting finalists over the years, working in close collaboration to bring the finalists' vision to life.

The Woolmark Company has the support of Innovation Academy partners Common Objective, Queen of Raw, BYBORRE, Blue Bite, TIPA, Hologarment, Close to Clothes and Ratti.

Nominations are now open for the 2022 International Woolmark Prize, with emerging designers invited to register from now until July 31.

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