The regional finals of the International Woolmark Prize, the prestigious award for fashion talent from around the globe, are heading to Dubai for a second time.
The finalists for the Indian Subcontinent and Middle East include the reasonably well established Dubai-based Varoin Marwah in the menswear category, but otherwise there’s no local representation among the 13 nominees – which must have disappointed the Dubai Design & Fashion Council, sponsor of the regional finals.
DDFC CEO Jazia Aldhanhani did express pride that the Woolmark Prize is coming to Dubai again – “as the nominating body for the UAE and the GCC, this reaffirms our goal of positioning Dubai as an international destination for design and fashion”.
Maybe some more Dubai-based design studios will get the chance to shine in future years. It’s interesting to see the London-based Bahraini Hind Matar on the list, for she definitely represents a key trend in fashion design – as she put it in an interview a couple of years ago, “I am interested in contemporising the Arab aesthetic”. That must be one way forward for local designers.
Varoin Marwah represents another strand of development. His two collections shown at Fashion Forward showcase an international design aesthetic that emphasizes a cool minimalism with much use of natural fibres (including wool) and minimum wastage in the pattern cutting. This kind of sustainability in fashion is always welcome. Here’s the livestream of his show at Fashion Forward 2017, also seen in the pic above.
Entry to the International Woolmark Prize is by invitation only through a panel of regional nominating bodies, of which DDFC is one. Nominees must have shown both creative promise and commercial potential while not yet being globally established (they have to have been producing wholesale collections for commercial sale for a minimum of three and a maximum of eight years).
The nominees for the Indian Subcontinent and Middle East join 52 others from around the world. Each of the global nominees will receive approximately AED 5,500 (AU$2,000 – the Woolmark brand is Australian) for the development of one submission piece at their regional finals (to be held in London, Milan, New York, Seoul and Sydney as well as Dubai).
Each regional winner in the menswear and womenswear categories then gets more than AED 194,000 (AU$70,000) to go towards their final collection (which must of course feature wool). The two eventual winners will each receive AU$200,000, more than AED 556,000.
There’s also a new Innovation Award for “outstanding creative and innovative fabric or yarn development in wool”. This can be awarded to any of the 12 global finalists and aims to encourage them to be more experimental when developing their final collections. The winner of the Innovation Award will be get another AU$100,000 (AED 275,000) plus extra commercial opportunities.
The competition is sure to be tough. The first winners, in 1954, were a couple of youngsters called Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent. Last year’s were New York designer Gabriella Hearst (who said all the right things when she opined “it’s a huge honour to be recognised and I cannot wait to promote more Merino wool in the world as I believe it is the yarn of future”) and the über-cool British studio COTTWEILER (“knitwear is not what you’d associate with our brand. So we wanted to create something that had the appearance of what we do, but the properties of the Merino wool brief that we were given”).
The regional nominees
- Antar-Agni India
- Dhruv Kapoor India
- Theorem India
- Varoin Marwah UAE
- Ziggi Menswear Pakistan
- Bodice India
- Hemang Agrawal India
- MATAR Bahrain
- Khadijah Rahman Pakistan
- Nour Najem Lebanon
- Timi Hayek Lebanon
- Péro India
- Zonia Anwaar Pakistan