Matthew Miller has just been awarded with the International Woolmark Prize in Florence during the 93rd edition of Pitti Immagine Uomo and looks adorably bewildered, like only British do, when he sits in front of me for the interview.
Ruchica Sachdeva, from India, got the same price for womenswear with her brand Bodice. She tells me about the day she decided to move back to her country, rather than staying in UK after the degree, because she felt the need to be authentic, to stay connected with her roots. While Christopher Bevans, the US designer behind Dyne, is so overwhelmed by excitement that he can hardly speak, as he gets the Innovation award for his collection combining technical and stylish issues in the same product.
The three of them arrived in Florence together with the other finalists Six Lee from Hong Kong, Blair Archibald from Australia, the Swedish Jonathan Harngren from L’Homme Rouge, the Indian Ujjawal Dubey from Antar-Agni for menswear and the South Korean Kathleen Kye, the duo Harman Grubisa from New Zealand, the Scottish Samantha McCoach from Le Kilt, the Dutch David Laport and Zaid Affas from the USA for womenswear.
They all had the same goal: getting the 200.000 Australian dollars (a little more than 130.000 Euro) and the chance to be sold through some of the most important stores worldwide, granted by Woolmark, because for young brands it is vital to get support both financially and through communication. What is maybe less obvious is that Woolmark too needs them.
There’s more than a great marketing strategy behind this prize relaunched in 2012 and becoming more relevant year after year. As Miller points out: “I think we are all trying to build a virtuous circle in fashion business now. I need to find investors to support me, but then I must be relevant in what I do and choose those manufacturers who have a great know-how, so that we can all bring our skills to the next generations”. The question is not just about a big company using upcoming talents to promote their product (Woolmark is a trademark that gathers the most important Australian wool suppliers who are protecting their top quality wool). This prize is a way to support consistency at all levels. Designers, suppliers, manufactures, buyers must be consistent and vey well grounded if they want to attract the final customers. And the only way to make this happen, is to do it all together.
From left, two looks by Dyne, two by Bodice, Ruchica Sachdeva from Bodice awarded for womenswear, Christopher Bevans
from Dyne with his Innovation Award, Matthew Miller awarded for menswear and two of his looks. Photos IWP