Standing before a panel of judges at the 2012/13 Europe regional final, Christian Wijnants was an emerging womenswear designer from Antwerp with a dream: to win the International Woolmark Prize.
Presenting for the first time his Shibori-dyed creation, he was unaware that this outfit would soon not only be commercially available, but also in fashion publications and websites across the world.
In front of iconic industry heavyweights including Lanvin Artistic Director Alber Elbaz, Vogue UK Editor Alexandra Schulman, Vogue Germany Editor Christiane Arp, DSQUARED2 designers Dean and Dan Caten, designer Giles Deacon and Style.com Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks, Wijnants was awarded for his sense of colour, innovation and modernity of using wool.
“Christian’s work was right for the project, it was about knitwear, construction and technique,” Elbaz said whilst presenting the award.
“I’ve always been attracted to natural fibres, for this competition I wanted to use just one yarn of Merino wool in white and explore all the possibilities,” Wijnants said. “I was very satisfied because it was a long process, you never really know where you’re going to end up, but I was really happy with the end result.”
And for Wijnants, this was only the start of his dream coming true.
For Wijnants, it was the Martin Margielas and Dries Van Noetens of the world who inspired him to study fashion. Moving to Antwerp as a teenager, it was his immediate fascination with the avant garde members of the Antwerp Six which, for Wijnants, was the start of something beautiful.
“The way of thinking, the way of working, that for me was fashion,” he says.
Whilst many designers may tire of being caught in the struggle to find harmony between the commercial and creative side of running a label, Wijnants says this is something he has never toiled with.
“That’s the great thing about fashion, it’s very diverse. There’s so many techniques, so many different things you need to know – there’s the commercial side, the wearability of the collection but also the creativity, the textile.
“When I started thinking about the Woolmark project I really wanted to think about the fibre and try to see how to bring homage to this beautiful material. My way was to explore it through a single thread from a yarn and to bring it to life in a three dimensional piece. It’s all about feeling the yarn and knowing how it’s going to react; it’s technical but it has a lot to do with experience, with testing and with feeling.”