For those under the misguided impression that wool is an exclusively wintertime fabric, today's International Woolmark Prize event held amid sweltering temperatures in Dubai proved otherwise. The competing designers presented a line-up of looks that truly showcased the versatility of the natural fibre while highlighting the importance of the India, Pakistan and Middle East region as an emerging design hub.
Nez Gebreel, CEO of prize nominating body Dubai Design and Fashion Council, commented, "This is a prize that educates and supports designers throughout the design process in its entirety, aligning with the council’s mandate to nurture emerging talent so they have an opportunity to flourish". The nominees taking part in the prize, she said, created pieces from Merino wool "which truly demonstrate the wealth of talent we have in this region".
Staged at the opulent Manzil Hotel in Downtown Dubai, the first International Woolmark Prize event to be held in United Arab Emirates attracted some of the areas most influential figures in fashion and a judging panel, including Gebreel, Editor-in-Chief of Harper's Bazaar Arabia Louise Nichol, Che Kurrien of GQ and visiting British designer Osman Yousefzada, fresh from last week's Sydney event.
After a rigorous day of judging and much discussion, Suketdhir was announced at the menswear regional winner and Taller Marmo for womenswear.
With a passion for natural fabrics and sustainable materials, designer Suket Dhir sums up his eponymous New Delhi-based label as Indo-centric western menswear that subscribes to the less-is-more philosophy. It was his unique Merino fabric developments and handwoven techniques that impressed the judges.
"I am extremely proud to have received this accolade from such a prestigious institution, particularly when taking into account all the amazing designers that have come before me," said Dhir, upon receiving the award from The Woolmark Company.
Womenswear finalists Yago Goicoechea and Riccardo Audisio of Taller Marmo, based in the UAE, were praised for their truly international approach. The duo met while studying at Instituto Marangoni in Milan (Audisio is from Northern Italy and Goicoechea from Northern Argentina) and describe their label's aesthetic as providing "a bridge between European elegance and Middle Eastern charm."
Their prize-winning mix of Italian tailoring and Arabic tradition is a result of exhaustive meetings with thirty of the most innovative wool manufacturers in Italy to handpick fabrics that "did not look like wool" in order to break with traditional notions of the fibre. The label's final submission includes Merino wool fabrics that look like mesh, neoprene, chiffon and even linen.
Goicoechea and Audisio were overwhelmed by the win. "Now, we are looking towards the international womenswear final in New York. We are truly excited to see what lies ahead as a result of this opportunity."
The International Woolmark Prize womenswear final will play out in February and the menswear event will see Suket Dhir travel to Florence in January. While regional winners receive a financial contribution of AU$50,000, the international prize presents the opportunity to win an additional $AU100,000 and the chance to be stocked in the most important retailers of the world, including Harvey Nichols, Saks Fifth Avenue and Matchesfashion.com.
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