Christian Wijnants launches at David Jones

IWP winner takes his award-winning knitwear Down Under

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The winner of the 2012/13 International Woolmark Prize (IWP) brings his label to Australia for the first time. First seen in February on the runway at Paris Fashion Week, the much-anticipated debut of the autumn/winter 2014 collection brought local media to the David Jones department store for an exclusive first look.

TURNING UP THE HEAT

Outside, Sydney sweltered under record-breaking spring temperatures, but inside the personal shopping suite of David Jones it was a different story. Introduced to the technical and aesthetic delights of Christian Wijnants, fashion press, including Vogue, Elle and marie claire, got a taste of winter in Belgium thanks to the label’s arrival in the country… and Belgian waffles.

“[He’s] really outstanding in terms of his technique and design.”
Sophie Clark, general manager womenswear, David Jones

The Antwerp-based designer explored hand looming techniques and Japanese hand dyeing methods to create a capsule collection made from Merino wool. The ingenuity and technical prowess shown by Wijnants in the range saw him take out the 2012/13 IWP, itself the culmination of an almost year-long search to uncover the best emerging design talent from across the world.

The Woolmark Company’s chief strategy and marketing officer, Rob Langtry told those present that the collection stood as testament to the strength and integrity of the competition.

“This is an ongoing commitment by us,” Langtry said. “It’s a commitment to young talent, it’s a commitment to introducing them to wool early in their career so they can celebrate and use this natural fibre and it’s a commitment to accelerate their development as young fashion designers into the very important commercial aspects of what it is that our woolgrowers ultimately do which is grow the world’s finest wool for apparel.”

 
 

SELLING CREATIVITY

As part of his award, Wijnants’ collection is currently cropping up on the shelves of the world’s biggest and best fashion retailers, including Harvey Nichols (London), Bergdorf Goodman (New York), 10 Corso Cormo (Milan), Joyce (Hong Kong), Eickhoff Konigsallee (Germany) and, of course, David Jones. And that, as Vogue Australia editor-in-chief Edwina McCann points out, is really the key to developing young talent.

“Australian customers, being as sophisticated as they are, are really going to enjoy this collection.”
Dana Player, group executive fashion, David Jones

“This competition is really incredibly beneficial for young designers, it puts them on the map in terms of their creativity,” she said. “But then to have a department store like David Jones actually follow it through and take it right to the customer. I mean, that’s what its about isn’t it? Its about selling clothes so that’s why this prize does such a good job.” 

With his star swiftly on the rise, the in-demand man of the moment couldn’t make the 16,000km journey to Sydney for the launch, but in a pre-recorded video he talked about how he brought old-school hand techniques together with Merino fibres to create an exquisite, modern interpretation of knitwear.

For Langtry, seeing the efforts of the IWP design competition start to bear fruit was a satisfying moment.

“To see a product that’s been developed by Christian through this particular process and championed by a store like David Jones, an iconic setting in the middle of Sydney, it does your heart a little good,” he said. “It’s good to see it all come home.”

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