Known as the world’s most historic and important fashion design competition, the largely untold history of the International Woolmark Prize is a veritable lesson on the course of fashion and connects an astonishing list of industry legends, both past and present – all with the fibre of Australian-grown Merino wool. As a likewise Australian-born business, Semi Permanent is always excited by the opportunity to partner with brands making positive impact on the world stage, and so it was that we partnered with The Woolmark Company to ideate and produce an event in Sydney to welcome this year’s grand prize winner as part of his victory lap.
Following in the footsteps of Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Ralph Lauren and, more recently, Gabriela Hearst, Dion Lee, and Bode, British menswear designer and choreographer Saul Nash was selected by an expert jury including Edward Enninful, Ibrahim Kamara, Naomi Campbell, and Sinead Burke. “Everyone did a great job and could have been a winner,” said Riccardo Tisci. “But what Saul did, coming from a contemporary and hip hop background to replace lycra with wool was really incredible.” With a true sense of discovery, this collection exposed Nash to the benefits of Merino wool in activewear, allowing him to develop materials which have enhanced the quality of his designs without compromising their technical DNA. With a focus on minimising waste, and emphasising movement and performance, Saul Nash’s modern interpretation of knitwear challenges preconceived ideas surrounding sportswear.
For the Sydney event to launch the designer’s Merino wool capsule collection, we staged an exhibition and talk in a contemporary art gallery space, taking visual cues from the overarching campaign film of this year’s International Woolmark Prize, directed by and starring FKA Twigs and filmed at White Cube, London. An industrial scaffold was used to display and frame Nash’s collection, suspended by wire to evoke the element of movement inherent in the garments, and a series of CRTs atop cinder block plinths created an immersive experience in an additional darkened space, taking guests on a visual journey of the year-long talent program. A DJ set by Ayebatonye rounded out the celebratory evening and marked a fitting beginning to Nash’s impressive reign as winner of the prize that’s inspiring a new generation of designers to embrace natural fibres in their practice.