Representing the creative future

The International Woolmark Prize 2021 collaborates with Solange’s Saint Heron Studio

Solange Knowles’ multidisciplinary platform partners on an exciting project to present and honor the work of six finalists through compelling visuals

For this year’s Woolmark Award, six designers received AU$60,000 to meticulously construct their Merino designs while keeping in mind this year’s competition theme – Less is More–which celebrates ethical production and craftsmanship. Titled ‘Passage’, the film features looks from Bethany Williams, Casablanca, Kenneth Ize, LECAVALIER, Matty Bovan, and Thebe Magugu’s final Woolmark Prize collection.  “Working across theatre and film myself, this felt like the perfect melding of everyone’s visions,” says Wu Tsand, the McArthur Award-winning Director who has worked on the film. Created by Solange Knowles for Saint Heron Agency, the short also draws from the masterful styling of Ib Kamara and an original score by American avant-garde band Standing on The Corner.

Saint Heron celebrates the 2021 International Woolmark Prize Finalists with a theatrical journey that sets the stage for each finalist’s designs to take on a life of their own, a voice of their own. “Passage” is a deeply thoughtful exploration of sustainability, and the stages of creation: contemplation, courage, optimism, vulnerability, discipline, and strength.”

“ ‘Passage’ aligns with Saint Heron’s mission to revere creation as life, from abstraction to being.” – Solange Knowles

The short film stars an ensemble cast of emerging musical talent and legendary personalities, including 5x Grammy award winner Dionne Warwick; actress, model, and author Dominique Jackson; eclectic artist SahBabii; Atlanta psychedelic soul legend Joi; and KeiyaA, one of music’s most exciting new voices and Pitchfork ranked best new music of 2020. “ ‘Passage’ aligns with Saint Heron’s mission to revere creation as life, from abstraction to being,” says Knowles in a statement. “I’ve been a longtime fan of Wu Tsang’s work and to be able to work alongside her, the Saint Heron team, and all of the incredible artists and designers in the film, really fortifies the ethos of collaboration and communal creative exchange that we wish to continue to embody,” she continues.

This vision of combining the skills of young designers with the adaptability of wool resulted in an annual design competition held in Paris that predates any other major designer prize still in operation today.  From Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent to Giorgio Armani, Donna Karan, and Ralph Lauren, The International Woolmark Prize has recognised and nurtured some of the most influential fashion designers of our time. Since the 1950s, this award has not only acted as a foundation of support for emerging creatives, but it has also unquestionably contributed to crucial moments in contemporary fashion’s canon. Valentino Garavani, who was a fashion student in his teens in Paris at the time, was one of the first winners of the International Wool Secretariat’s design competition, according to the earliest records. The reward gained the young Italian a great degree of attention, so much so that he shortly after secured his first job in 1950 with couturier Jean Dessès before his own now-iconic first name blossomed into what today remains one of the most revered international fashion brands.

Educator and Advocate Sinead Burke says on the Prize, “The International Woolmark Prize has never been more needed – a conduit to educate and provoke new ideas and ways of working invoking sustainability, accessibility, and equity. With mentoring and funding, it shapes the trajectory for a new generation of designers in a meaningful and transformative way. IWP connects people and the planet, understanding the connectivity and agency between the two.”

“They are the future, and I look forward to seeing what creative and innovative work comes out of this year’s entries to push our industry’s ongoing mission in diversity and sustainability.” – Naomi Campbell

With traditional models of continual creation, production, and consumption being questioned in the 2020 world, finalists Bethany Williams, Casablanca, Kenneth Ize, Lecavalier, Matty Bovan, and Thebe Magugu have created their own models of success. Supermodel Naomi Campbell, who is part of the Prize’s Advisory Council for 2021, has recognised the importance of nurturing fresh voices in design now more so than ever. “They are the future, and I look forward to seeing what creative and innovative work comes out of this year’s entries to push our industry’s ongoing mission in diversity and sustainability.”

A top panel of industry experts will award the International Woolmark Prize to one winner, who will receive AU$200,000 to invest in the development of their business. The Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation will be handed once more, and it can be given to either the International Woolmark Prize winner or a finalist, with the winner receiving AU$100,000. This year will also witness the debut of the Woolmark Supply Chain Award, which will recognise a trade partner’s outstanding contribution to raising awareness of wool supply chain innovation. Through the International Woolmark Prize Retailer Network, all finalists will have the opportunity to be stocked in some of the world’s finest retailers.

The winner of the IWP 2021 prize will be announced on June 10th, 2021.