Saul Nash Wins the 2022 Woolmark Prize

Personally I was crazy for the super-clever Donna Karan-inspired capsule of New York’s Peter Do, the upcycling and jacquards of London’s charming Priya Ahluwalia, the subversive rive gauche sustainability of Paris’s Egonlab, the sexy technicality of Shanghai’s Rui (the only absent designer, due to Covid lockdowns), and the hard-to-achieve complementary dichotomy between comfort and impact in Sydneysider Jordan Dalah’s spectacularly silhouetted collection. But you have to choose.

As Burberry’s creative director Riccardo Tisci said of judging: “It’s horrible!” He added: “Because I’ve been there before, and there are so many boxes you have to tick; the creativity, the awareness… It was very difficult to judge today. But Saul Nash’s roots in dance and hip-hop and the way he translates the clothes worn by a dancer, which are typically acrylic, into this fiber was beautiful to see. And Mmusomaxwell, these two kids from South Africa, delivered this amazing, couture, well-made collection. It was a great judging table also, and we discussed a lot, and we found a point: which is that creativity today is in the style, but it can also be expressed through other things.”

Nash, a Fashion East alum, expressed his ongoing preoccupation with freedom of movement but here pivoted elegantly to using the sponsor’s non-synthetic fiber in a way that spoke to the characteristics that explain why it is so popular amongst sheep: its warmth, its breathability, and its ability to wick and remain odorless. He also created some wonderful jacquards that refigured the colors of the Guyanese flag, reflecting his heritage, as abstract landscapes, plus created some novel hybrid trench coats in weather-sealed wool that featured ingeniously removable shoulder sections that allowed outerwear to pirouette with one movement into evening wear. When I mentioned to Hermès’s womenswear designer Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski that these last pieces had seemed especially sophisticated—even Hermès-sophisticated—she enthusiastically agreed. “It’s about widening the parameters and taking risks,” she said: “and I think Saul, the winner, has taken big risks.”

That winner, after the event, had one burning priority. Nash said: “I need to phone my mum. That’s what I’ve got to do. Because she always goes, ‘Oh, that’s amazing, but are you going to win?’”

Maxwell Boko and Mmuso Potsane of Mmusomaxwell were awarded the $72,000 Innovation award

Photo: Lillie Eiger / Courtesy of Woolmark

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