Last Thursday night in Beijing, Guangzhou based designer Ban Xiao Xue won the China round of The International Woolmark Prize. He was selected from 10 finalists by judges Angelica Cheung – Chief Editor of Vogue China and Uma Wang – a leading Chinese fashion designer. Other contestants who attended the ceremony in Beijing included: Chang Xiao Fan, Gao Yang, Guo Li Sha, Liu Fang, Ni Hua, Yun Xi, Yu Wan Ning, Zhang Di and Zhang Na,
Taking home US$50,000 towards his next collection and show, Ban Xiao Xue will also represent China in the Woolmark Prize world final to be held during London Fashion Week in February 2012. In London Xiao Xue will compete with other regional winners for a further US$100,000 and to have his collection commercialized through major international retailers including Bergdorf Goodman in the USA, Harvey Nichols in the UK and Joyce in China.
For an emerging Chinese fashion designer such prize money can go a long way to getting their own label off the ground and making a name for themselves. Xiao Xue will be hoping that in London his name will thrust into the spotlight and change the course of his fashion career.
This wouldn’t be the first time The Woolmark Prize has altered the course of fashion history. In 1954 at the International Wool Secretariat Design Award (precursor The Woolmark Prize) a 21-year-old Karl Lagerfeld and 18-year-old Yves Saint Laurent were announced winners thus launching them onto the world stage.
Just as in 1954 when the couturiers of the time – Hubert de Givenchy and Pierre Balmain acted as judges for the Woolmark Prize, 2012 also sees and impressive lineup of fashion designers including Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz and DSquared’s Dean and Dan Caten. Regional Woolmark Prize events will also be supported by prestigious fashion institutions such as British Fashion Council and the Council of Fashion Designers America. Globally, Vogue magazine is also playing a major role in both selecting participants and judging designers.
In 2012, altogether 70 nominees from 15 different countries will compete for The International Woolmark Prize. By identifying emerging designers, from five regions including Australia, China, India, Europe and the US, Australian Wool Innovation – the organization behind The Woolmark Prize hopes to further commercialize Australian Marino Wool products with the leading fashion designers and boutiques around the world.
In its Press Release Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) stated:
The Woolmark Company continues to promote Australian Merino wool throughout the international fashion industry, highlighting to consumers the benefits of Australian Merino wool. A key element to this strategy is building relationships with designers and working with them to showcase the most innovative and beautiful Merino wool fabrics and yarns. The overall objective of the International Woolmark Prize is to promote the use of fine Merino wool by ready to wear designers globally.
With up to 80% of Australia’s wool exports making their way to China for processing and re-export around the world or manufactured into final garments, Australian Wool Innovation has a lot to gain from an increased appreciation of wool with Chinese designers and consumers. Big luxury brands such as Zegna have long been vocal advocates on the merits of Australian Marino Wool, with a lot of their sales already taking place in China.