Woolmark Prize’s Asia regional final in Hong Kong picks South Korean and Indonesian designs

Heritage and innovation shine through in Woolmark’s regional final, with men’s and women’s winners now progressing to world finals in January

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 July, 2016, 4:17pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 July, 2016, 4:16pm

South Korean label Münn was the menswear winner at the Australia Wool Innovation Asia regional finals for the International Woolmark Prize, held in Hong Kong earlier this month.

In addition to heats in Sydney, London, Milan, Mumbai and New York, this year’s regional competition was hosted in Hong Kong.

This year showed a wide range of design abilities, as entrants created looks that not only represented who they were, but also used Australian merino wool in new and exciting ways. Overall, the calibre of entries in the men’s category was higher than the women’s, which at times included entries that did not have a clear design concept or use wool to its best capacity.

Move over Hong Kong! Seoul becoming Asia's fashion hotspot as luxury firms spy trend-setting South Korea

“As a judge for this year’s Asia regional competition, there was quite a broad range of skills with the designers,” says British fashion designer Christopher Raeburn. “The way some of the designers presented went from quite high to some that were a little younger and need time to grow, and that of course is completely fair.

“Overall, it was a professional process, and as a designer who has been in the industry for seven years, I was impressed by the level of innovation in terms of fabric, silhouette and textiles.”

Münn, whose black and grey ensemble involved woven strips of wool integrated into a backpack, long coat and shoes, was established just three years ago by Han Hyun-min, a graduate from the Samsung Art & Design Institute who previously worked with brands such as Wooyoungmi.

The win is significant for Korea, a country which scooped both the women’s and men’s regional prizes last year, highlighting the noticeable wave of young and creative Korean designers.

Korean fashion coming of age, led by Pushbutton’s Park Seung-gun and Gayeon Lee

In the women’s category, Indonesia’s Toton by Toton Januar stood out from the pack. Offering a powder pink and beige contemporary look, the brand used traditional Indonesian embroidery techniques to manipulate wool – a material rarely used in the country’s design vocabulary.

Born in Makassar, Toton developed a fascination with fashion and design from his mother, who was a seamstress. He worked as a broadcaster before deciding to try his hand in fashion, enrolling for a course at Parsons New School of Design in New York and eventually co-founding his label in 2012 with business partner Haryo Balitar.

Toton’s victory is also notable as this is the first year that the competition was open to Indonesian contestants.

Fuelled by fashion, the Korean wave is taking the world by storm

Fashion stylist Priscilla I’Anson said of their entry: “We really liked how Toton considered the fact that Indonesia has a very hot climate, so they wanted to use wool in a way that was light and easy to wear. They created a product that was highly desirable, taking the traditional ikat technique and translating it in a modern way. Lastly, they also had a very clear idea of who their customer really was. It was all these factors that really impressed us.”

Over the years, Australia Wool Innovation has worked to ensure that merino wool is an integral part of the global fashion industry. As well as working with established names like Thom Browne and Christopher Raeburn, the organisation works with young designers to capitalise on the fabric’s versatility.

Both Toton and Münn will receive a A$50,000 (HK$290,000) financial contribution towards their next collections. In addition, they will work over the next six months to develop a capsule collection using merino wool for the international finals. The menswear final will be held at London Collections Men, while the womenswear final will be held in Paris, both next January.