Asia's International Woolmark Prize semi-finalists revealed

I-Am-Chen from Hong Kong, Angel Chen from China, Yohei Ohno from Japan and Youser from South Korea were last week announced as the winners of the 2018/19 International Woolmark Prize semi-final for the Asia region.


The Asia semi-finalists for 2018/19

The four winners were chosen by an industry panel made up of fashion press leaders Rahul Mishra; Managing Editor Esquire Hong Kong, Angus Lui; Grazia Middle East Editor-in-Chief, Alison Tay; and retail buyers including Lane Crawford Womenswear Buyer, Tawny Leung and Takashimaya Womenswear Buyer, Ayako Midorikawa.

“I was totally impressed by all candidates, and not just by their creativity but also the strong identity and story behind each brand," said Lui after the Hong Kong-held competition, which took place on July 6.  

"Each designer fully utilised the characteristics of wool and transformed the fibre in modern and practical ways.”

Known for the blurring of art and fashion, I-Am-Chen's Zhi Chen took inspiration from the works of American abstract painter Agnes Martin, focusing on classic elements such as grids, lines, points and tartans, contrasted with her intricate yarn swatches in pop colours. 

China's Angel Chen channelled female South Korean deep sea diver, Haenyeo, referencing diving suits, wool bathing suits from the late 1920s, and the 1930s ‘Topper’ wool swimsuit. The latter were reworked in the designer's signature bold colours -- red, orange, green, pink and yellow.

Womenswear semi-finalist Yohei Ohno used heritage Japanese dead-stock fabric from Bishu, a textile mill famous for wool production in Japan. Reworking them in a modern context, Ohno's collection of women’s suiting featured new-look woollen fabrics and a fresh colour palette in tailoring.

To the men, Youser's collection referenced Native American warriors, using combination of jaunty colours and patterns, silhouettes and styling to create an original wool collection.

Now in its seventh year, the International Woolmark Prize selects the best emerging designers each year, from 300 applicants across 46 countries. The winners are among the 12 global finalists announced at three semi-final events in Hong Kong, London and New York held throughout July, who will each gain a financial contribution of AU$70,000 for the development of their business and capsule collection.

Finalists are then invited to compete in the global final to be held in London in February 2019, where they will showcase a capsule collection of six looks in Merino wool.

One menswear and one womenswear winner will receive a further AU$200,000 financial contribution at the global final, as well as mentoring from industry experts to help propel their business to the next stage. There's a secondary prize given to one additional finalist, the Innovation Award, with the winner to take home a AU$100,000 cash prize.

Finally, at the end of competition, winners could have their collections picked up and sold by the prize’s international retail partner network which includes Boutique 1, Boon the Shop, David Jones, Harvey Nichols, Hudson’s Bay Company, Lane Crawford, Leclaireur, Mytheresa.com and Parlour X.

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