Teatum Jones and Suket Dhir this year’s big Woolmark Prize winners

British design duo Teatum Jones wins this year’s big Woolmark womenswear prize, after Indian designer Suket Dhir’s menswear win

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 February, 2016, 11:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 February, 2016, 11:02am

These days there is no shortage of international prizes from Andam to the CFDA award in the US that provide funding and guidance to emerging designers. Perhaps the most global of all is the International Woolmark Prize which recently unveiled the winner for its women award on February 12.

Since the 1950s the International Woolmark Prize has become one of the industry’s most prestigious fashion awards, having discovered talents such as Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent and more recently design duo Public School and Belgian designer Christian Wijnants. Today the award is open to emerging talents across the globe, with separate prizes for women’s wear and menswear that include up to AS$100,000 (HK$558,000) worth of funding, a mentorship as well as distribution at some of the world’s most prestigious boutiques.

The women’s final, which was held during New York Fashion Week, showcased the work of six designers who were tasked with creating capsule collections using Australian wool. The judging panel, which included fashion editor André Leon Talley and prize mentor and designer Thakoon Panichgul, were won over by British women’s wear label Teatum Jones. The collection which was inspired by the work of English nun and founder of founder of Foxford Woollen Mills, Agnes Morrogh-Bernard who wove luxurious woollen blankets and restored hope to an impoverished town in the 1800s.

Designers Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones travelled to the mill to create blankets, skirts and jackets which they modernised with geometric foil prints and hand embroideries. They also developed innovative new fabrics including geometric wool lace made in France.

“This is amazing, we are honoured and excited and it’s just the beginning; we have only scratched the surface. This award lets us ignite the magic of wool, so the customer sees the romance,” said Teatum and Jones, who already have several awards under their belt including the UKFT best womenswear designers of 2015.

Earlier this year at the men’s final in Florence, six designers showed their collections to a panel of judges including Business of Fashion founder Imran Amed and designer Haider Ackermann.

Eventually Delhi-based designer Suket Dhir came out on top with a poetic collection that fused classic Western tailoring with elements of India’s national dress. For the past few years India has been poised as the next big luxury market thanks to its incredibly strong heritage in textiles and talented emerging designers and the point was brought home with Dhir’s collection of East-meets-West styles including traditional kurta shirts, wide-legged trousers and unstructured jackets.

The Indian influence could also been seen in Dhir’s use of regional artisanal techniques such as hand-tied and ombre dyed yarn (Ikat) as well as kasuti, a traditional hand embroidery that was used to create geometric, grid-like patterns on the garments. Everything was made from summer-appropriate wool handmade by weavers in areas such as Telangana and West Bengal.

“My collection explores the trans-seasonal aspects of wool and its alchemic transformation into smooth, silk-like yarn, which renders the fabric light, airy, fluid yet full and supple,” said the designer.

Suket Dhir trained at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in New Delhi and founded his eponymous label in 2009 . Although he is not the first Indian designer to win the award (Rahul Mishra won in 2013/14) – it will no doubt catapult him onto the international stage.

“I’ve done what I could in India, and this is the best thing that could happen to me for me to move in a bigger way. I think I’m ready for the world, and I also think the world is ready for me and for this kind of aesthetic.” said Dhir.