Often, true genius stems from the simplest ideas. Starting with white yarn, the Belgian fashion designer Christian Wijnants set out to explore the potential of that single fibre. So the Antwerp-based designer experimented, incorporating hand looming and hand dyeing techniques. The results were striking and sculptural. Or, as Franca Sozzani, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Italia and L'Uomo Vogue put it: "Christian invented a new shape."
Knitted into one seamless piece, Wijnants' garments were rendered in colours taking inspiration from crystals and minerals. Some were unravelled before being re-knitted, others employed varying gauges, together forming a unique, irregular finish. Wijnants' yarn exploration formed the basis of a 100 per cent Merino capsule collection created for the finals of the 2013 International Woolmark Prize (IWP).
"His designs are flattering, feminine and sexy, a modern interpretation of wool," Sozzani said as she announced the then-34-year-old designer victorious over his five peers at the London finals. Sozzani and fellow judges Victoria Beckham, Donatella Versace, Diane von Furstenburg and Tim Blanks selected Wijnants from a global pool of talent including Dion Lee (Australia), Ban Xiao Xue (China), Pankaj and Nidhi (India), DRESSEDUNDRESSED (Japan) and Sophie Theallet (USA)—a group already whittled down from over 70 designers in 16 countries.
It wasn't the first time the fashion design industry has recognised Wijnants and it's unlikely to be the last. The accolades began from the outset. The Brussels-born designer was awarded the Christine Mathijs prize for his graduate collection at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp in 2000. Bestowed by Academy alumnus—and Belgium's biggest fashion export—Dries Van Noten, the award augured well for Wijnants. He is threatening to become as much of an industry name as Van Noten himself.
Wijnants' groundbreaking Merino collection is set to introduce his talents to a new, global audience.
After winning the Festival d'Hyéres Grand Prix the following year, it seemed almost a fait accompli. Now, with the IWP under his belt, Wijnants' groundbreaking Merino collection is set to introduce his talents to a new, global audience.
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