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April 28, 2022

Saul Nash wins Woolmark Prize for use of merino wool in sportswear

London-based designer Saul Nash is named 2022 International Woolmark Prize winner for his use of merino wool in sportswear and South Africa-based Mmusomaxwell is awarded the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation.

By Fi Forrest

The International Woolmark Prize, which celebrates international fashion talents’s use of Australian merino wool named Saul Nash the 2022 prize winner for his use of the material in balletwear and ability to bridge the gap between active solutions and more formal requirements. 

“It’s great to see the continuing shifts in fashion as young dynamic creatives are supported and nurtured across the globe, from Africa to China to the UK. Anyone who knows me will know that I’ve been supporting young talent at every opportunity, so I am very happy to be part of this initiative,” said one of the judges, Naomi Campbell. “Everything about the wool industry is self-supportive. It’s all about partnering the natural resources of the farms with the wellbeing of their sheep. I am very happy to be involved with Woolmark.” 

“Everyone did a great job and could have been a winner,” said Riccardo Tisci, also on the judging panel. “But what Saul did, coming from a ballet background to replace lycra with wool was really incredible.” 

With a focus on minimising waste, and emphasising movement and performance, Nash’s modern interpretation of knitwear challenged preconceived ideas surrounding sportswear, Woolmark says. 

In its Prize trend report, Woolmark said Nash’s use of deadstock, recycled membranes, and zero-waste technology pushed the boundaries of sustainable design, with disposal considered at every stage, and showed a thoughtful approach, demonstrating awareness of market. 

“Words cannot describe what this means to me,” said Nash after the announcement. “In such a short space of time I am so grateful for what I have gained in the past eight months. This really is the cherry on top for everything Woolmark has done for me.” 

The overall winner of the Woolmark prize receives AU$200,000 (US$142,000) with the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation winner receiving AU$100,000. Finalists also have the opportunity to have their collections stocked by leading retailers. A full list of the finalists is available here.

Mmusomaxwell awarded the 2022 Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation 

South Africa-based Mmusomaxwell was named the winner of the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation thanks to his collection being committed to reducing environmental impact and upskilling traditional craftsmanship. 

“When you meet certain people you immediately have love at first sight,” explained Carine Roitfeld, another judge. “I love what Mmusomaxwell is doing and how they explain their work. They have a dream and what they are doing is not just for South Africa, but for a modern, western woman. I think Karl would have loved to have spoken with them today and am sure he would be very happy to give this award to them.” 

Sourcing local raw materials and end-to-end production, Mmusomaxwell took an artisanal approach to the collection, with each item promoting slow and small batch production through use of local artisans, counteracting over-consumption and allowing for greater product traceability. The jury praised the design duo for their passion, courage and commitment to introducing a new skillset to South African manufacturers. 

“Winning means everything to us,” said Mmusomaxwell designers Maxwell Boko and Mmuso Potsane. “It allows us to continue working with artisans and to further explore with merino wool, which is fantastic for us. It’s mind blowing.” 

Last November US denim giant Levi Strauss & Co introduced a sustainable boot featuring merino wool, produced in collaboration with The Woolmark Company.

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