meet the woolmark prize 2019 winners
Edward Crutchley and Colovos are more than just crafters of jaw-dropping fashion; they’re representatives of fashion’s new technical approach to sustainability.
Nella wears Shibori merino jumper and merino lace skirt, Edward Crutchley. Earrings and bra (worn throughout) Colovos. Belt and boots vintage from Rokit. Myles wears shibori merino jumper, merino flannel shirt and trousers and waxed merino boots Edward Crutchley.
This story originally appeared in i-D's The Voice of a Generation Issue, no. 356, Summer 2019.
When the International Woolmark Prize panel chose London’s Edward Crutchley and New York’s Nicole and Michael Colovos as winners for 2019, they picked two progressive, forward-thinking labels that exemplify their respective city’s style and embody the industry’s new approach to sustainability. The winning designs are, above all, intuitive, modern and embody the future possibilities of fashion. As we shoot their collections, here the designers discuss the origins of their brands, their fresh take on merino wool, and what the future holds as recipients of one of fashion’s most coveted prizes.
London’s Edward Crutchley — winner of both the Menswear Award and the Innovation Award, a combined prize of AU$300,000 — is a Central Saint Martins graduate who launched his eponymous label 10 seasons ago with Fashion East. Since then, his men’s and women’s designs — always shown together — have grown in scale, in confidence, and in commercial success. And the clothes carry all the hallmarks of this genesis. The prints are dynamic and eclectic, the textures and the materials are luxe, and the cuts are modern. Existing in a creative space between the best of what streetwear and tailoring have to offer, it’s an alchemy of elements unique to London and the city’s most interesting young designers.
“I started my brand when I was working at Louis Vuitton,” he explains a few days after the announcement, still in disbelief at having won an unprecedented two prizes. “We were doing really interesting things at Vuitton, but when you work for someone else you always have your own ideas that you want to push, but they don’t always work for whoever you’re working for.” Propelled by the advice and encouragement of then-creative director of menswear and his mentor Kim Jones, Edward took the plunge.
Since launching, the label has grown incrementally and holistically with each season, working throughout with a close-knit team of local manufacturers. “Almost all of the garments are made within a mile of north London. If someone ever wanted to know where a piece was made, or who it was made by, well I could probably get them the names of each person that has laid hands on that piece of clothing. It’s really important to know who’s made things and how they’re treated, and that I’m selling a product that is the least exploitative it can possibly be.”
It’s an ethos that blends well with Woolmark, and one that clearly resonated with the panel. Having already worked extensively with wool on previous collections, for his double award-winning Woolmark capsule, Edward sought to push the possibilities of the material even further than before. “Because it’s super lightweight, we used it for everything from really light, flowing shirts up to heavy duty coats. You can treat it in different ways, you can make it super flat and pressed or really fluffy. It really allows you to experiment and to create a range of textures using one fibre. I wanted to work with the suppliers I really know and say to them, ‘What can we do that’s really inventive?’ I tried to combine a lot of references and make it feel cohesive.”
Mixing these classic techniques with a modern twist, and working with a global array of long-standing heritage manufacturers of fabrics — from Japan to Italy to his native Yorkshire — in an expeditiously fast cycle of fashion, Edward’s clothing is a tribute to craftsmanship and a reminder of the importance of investing, not simply buying. As for what the future holds, Edward isn’t quite sure yet. “I’ve still not really decided what I’m going to do with the prize money. I want it to really make a difference, so I’m not rushing out and just doing anything. Plus I still keep thinking I’m going to get a call telling me there’s been a mistake and I need to return one of my awards!”
Launched only a couple of years back, Colovos is the brainchild of collaborators and married couple Nicole and Michael Colovos, and winner of the Womenswear Award — worth AU$200,000. It’s New York through and through. Minimal, restrained, concerned with the little details — it’s all about relaxed fits, raw edges, fitted blazers, elements of tailoring. Disciples of Helmut Lang — the pair having previously worked as co-creative directors of the brand after its eponymous founder left in the noughties – denim is the canvas on which Colovos work. Though wool, crucially, forms an integral part of what they do.
“After Helmut Lang and Habitual, our first label, we set out to build a smaller collection that was a bit more of a personal vision of where we see the future of fashion,” Nicole explains over the phone from New York. “Over time it’s become something that we want to make as sustainable as possible, so each collection we’re eliminating certain things and adding certain things to our items, that will hopefully, at some point, end up becoming much more of a circular collection.”
“We’re at a really interesting place in fashion with regards to technology, textiles, processing and upcycling,” Michael adds. “The garment, the recycling, breaking down and refabricating things. We can make really amazing clothing that also happen to be made from organic materials, in sustainable ways, and the factories are paying living wages.” As increasing scrutiny is placed on designers and their contribution to fashion’s global waste and emissions problem, there couldn’t be more of a need for this approach.
For their Woolmark collection, Colovos created something durable and practical with a modern, minimal sensibility and sustainability at its heart. They partnered with mills from Greenpeace’s detox programme, which aims to eliminate harmful dyes and chemicals from production, used fabrics that are traceable from farm to firm, and employed mills that spin their merino yarn using solar power. “We really believe that everybody is going to have to move into a more sustainable, ethical approach to whatever business practice they join,” says Nicole. “At the end of the day it’s the responsibility of all of us to really change and pivot businesses towards that.” We couldn’t agree more.
Discover more here.
Styling Bojana Kozarevic
Make-up Mattie White using MAC Cosmetics. Photography assistance Milly Cope. Styling assistance Emily Jones. Production Christina Barrett. Location scout Yolanda del Campo. Production co-ordinator Sandra Sebbe at POP House. Models Nella at Premier. Myles at Supa.