Brit wins Woolmark’s approval

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British fashion designer Matty Bovan scooped both of the top awards at the 2021 International Woolmark Prize.
Camera IconBritish fashion designer Matty Bovan scooped both of the top awards at the 2021 International Woolmark Prize. Credit: The Woolmark Company

British fashion designer Matty Bovan scooped both awards at the 2021 International Woolmark Prize last Thursday from six finalists.

Bovan’s technically advanced collection, showcasing his unique style and rich storytelling, impressed the judges.

The panel of industry heavyweights selected him for the main prize as well as the Karl Lagerfeld Award for innovation — winning a total prize pool of $300,000 to advance his fashion design business.

Bovan’s technically advanced collection, showcasing his unique style and rich storytelling, impressed the judges.
Camera IconBovan’s technically advanced collection, showcasing his unique style and rich storytelling, impressed the judges. Credit: The Woolmark Company

“What impressed me about Matty is his innovation and creativity,” French fashion editor Carine Roitfeld said.

“He is pure fashion. 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.”

Bovan was praised for his technically advanced jacquard weave, unique style, intricate designs that tell a story and an advanced understanding of knit and weave techniques.

He expressed strong colour combinations and a sustainable approach to local sourcing and production.

Bovan’s sensibility and conceptual approach to fashion impressed the judges.

New York fashion designer Thom Browne said Bovan’s style was something the world needs more of, especially right now.

Bovan was praised for his technically advanced jacquard weave, unique style, intricate designs that tell a story and an advanced understanding of knit and weave techniques.
Camera IconBovan was praised for his technically advanced jacquard weave, unique style, intricate designs that tell a story and an advanced understanding of knit and weave techniques. Credit: The Woolmark Company

“His collection moves things forward and he has a real hunger for showing people what they haven't seen before and that is something that is really necessary right now and so inspiring,” he said.

Mr Browne sat on the judging panel alongside Carine Roitfeld, Ib Kamara, Shaway Yeh, Sinéad Burke, Tasha Liu, Tim Blanks and Julie Davies.

He said the way Bovan use of wool didn't seem like much of a challenge.

“Matty was able to do so much with the medium,” he said.

“His Ode to the Sea 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.

From limited runs in-house, he turned dead-stock fabric into commercial limited pieces.

“It’s a huge honour to win these prizes and I’m so excited for where it’s going to take me,” said Bovan.

“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.”

Australian Wool Innovation chief executive Stuart McCullough said despite the challenges of COVID, the committent remained to support young talent.

“They are the future of the Australian wool industry,” he said.

“The new digital iteration of the IWP means that we can continue to showcase the latest innovations these amazing designers have created with wool on a global scale.

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