Woolmark announces winners for 2018/19 IWP semi-final

July 09, 2018 - Hong Kong

i-am-chen from Hong Kong, Angel Chen from China, Yohei Ohno from Japan and Youser from Korea were announced as the winners of the 2018/19 International Woolmark Prize Hong Kong semi-final. Chosen from more than 300 applicants from across 46 countries, these winners are amongst the most promising fashion design talents from across the globe.

The winners are amongst the 12 global finalists announced at three semi-final events in Hong Kong, London and New York held throughout July, who will each gain a financial contribution of AU$70,000 for the development of their business and capsule collection. Finalists will be invited to compete in the prestigious global final to be held in London in February 2019 as well as receiving mentoring support from a global panel of experts, showcasing opportunities and a Woolmark licence, one of the world’s best-known textile quality fibre brands providing a unique, global fibre quality assurance for consumers.

"I was totally impressed by all candidates, and not just by their creativity but also the strong identity and story behind each brand. Each designer fully utilised the characteristics of wool and transformed the fibre in modern and practical ways," one of the judges, Angus Lui said.

As a designer whose origins lie in engineering, i-am-chen’s vision is free of fashion norms and is instead inspired by 20th century artists, blurring the lines between fashion, art, textiles and technology. For her Woolmark Prize collection, designer Zhi Chen took inspiration from the works of American abstract painter Agnes Martin, focusing on classic elements such as grids, lines, points and tartans. While Martin subtly expresses her emotion through traditional shapes and lines, Chen hints her minimalistic design under the intricate yarn swatches in explosive colours. Chen hopes to re-interpret these traditional shapes and exploit the most advanced knitting machines to perform totally new and pioneering techniques.

Angel Chen took inspiration from the lifestyle, independent spirit and determination of deep sea female diver Haenyeo from the Hado Village, in Jeju, South Korea. Chen referenced diving suits, wool bathing suits from the late 1920s, and the 1930s ‘Topper’ wool swimsuit produced by Jantzen, reinterpreting these silhouettes and transforming the pieces into contemporary ready-to-wear with a colour palette of red, orange, green, pink and yellow – a signature touch that the label has developed through its notorious use of exuberant colours. The collection’s unisex outerwear carried functional detailing utilising bonded wool fabrics to make the collection waterproof, wind proof, breathable and thermoregulating.

"I combine modern forms with traditional fabrics to create something new for this generation adding my balance of playful design and functionality for the modern woman. For this I turn to architectural and sculptural forms for constructive silhouettes, looking at the different shapes, colour and texture to give my collection more of an industrial character," womenswear winner Yohei Ohno said. The starting point for Yohei Ohno’s collection concept was research of Japanese archival fabrics where they discovered a unique deadstock summer-weight fabric from Bishu, famous for wool production in Japan. In less than ten years the fabric has been replaced by synthetics.

For menswear label Youser, inspiration for the collection came from the Native American warrior group, Windigokan, from the Ojibwa tribe living in the plains. "These designs were inspired by thinking the opposite way to what we are accustomed to as being formal and giving a unique feel to the collection." (RR)