by John Russel Jones

Lagos Space Programme from Nigeria and Denmark’s A. Roege Hove are the winners of the 2023 International Woolmark Prize and Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation. The winners each receive AU$200,000 and AU$100,000 as well as ongoing support from the industry and Woolmark Prize retail partners. Byborre is also celebrating after being recognized as the Supply Chain Award recipient.

 An expert panel of judges including Alessandro Sartori, Carine Roitfeld, Caroline de Maigret, Elizabeth von der Goltz, Francesco Risso, John Roberts, Pieter Mulier, Salehe Bembury, Shaway Yeh, Sinéad Burke, Tim Blanks, and Tyler Mitchell selected the winners.

 “Supporting the next generation is always a good idea,” said Caroline de Maigret. “Supporting them into creating for the better – not only for innovation but also for sustainability.”

 “The specialty of the Woolmark Prize is it’s the only fashion award celebrating the fiber and materials and nature – the animals, the soil, all the farmers in the supply chain,” explained Shaway Yeh. “It’s not only celebrating human creativity but also nature’s creativity.”

The International Woolmark Prize 2023 Jury (L-R) Caroline De Maigret, Shaway Yeh, Tyler Mitchell, Sinead Burke, Tim Blanks, Alessandro Sartori, Pieter Mulier, Salehe Bembury, Elizabeth Von Der Goltz, and John Roberts attend the International Woolmark Prize 2023 at Le Petit Palais on May 15, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Julien M. Hekimian/Getty Images for The Woolmark Company)

The winners were announced at a special event held in Paris, France, paying tribute to the award’s humble beginnings, where more than 70 years ago they catapulted the careers of Valentino Garavani, Karl Lagerfeld, and Yves Saint Laurent, with a judging panel comprising Christian Dior and Hubert de Givenchy. Today, the award still celebrates the natural beauty and versatility of Merino wool but has evolved to provide finalists with the tools required to support sustainable growth through industry mentorship across all areas of business.

The 2023 International Woolmark Prize was centered around the theme of Dialogue, representing both an important element in the creative process and acting as a letter both to, and for, the next generation. The theme reflects The Woolmark Company’s mission to establish dialogue and connect leading design talent with industry players to collectively envision a more sustainable future. It also fosters a dialogue between the entire supply chain and Australia’s 60,000+ woolgrowers who passionately produce this remarkable fiber which remains at the heart of the prize. The immersive Paris showroom at Le Petit Palais was brought to life by dancers in a special performance choreographed by last year’s Woolmark Prize winner, Saul Nash. Each of the eight dancers wore a key look from this year’s finalists.

“Ultimately, the International Woolmark Prize celebrates Australian Merino wool, with today’s winners and finalists imbued with a life-long love for the fiber,” explains The Woolmark Company Managing Director John Roberts. “Karl Lagerfeld is a prime example, and more recently, Gabriela Hearst – who won the Woolmark Prize here in Paris in 2017 – continues to be a wonderful champion of the fiber. We’re proud of the nurturing relationships developed as part of the program, connecting designers with the supply chain and breaking down barriers. This year’s finalists will now continue their IWP journey, joining a prestigious alumnus of more than 400 and will be presented with commercial opportunities via our Retail Partner Network.”

Lagos Space Programme awarded the 2023 International Woolmark Prize

Photo by Julien M. Hekimian/Getty Images for The Woolmark Company.

Lagos Space Programme is a conceptual non-binary design label by Adeju Thompson. It offers intellectual, ready-to-wear, high-end crafted collections while exploring parallel concepts through multidisciplinary collaboration projects. The brand impressed judges with its completeness in the collection and the way it explored and used Merino wool to tailor each piece.

“What I loved was the story behind the brand which is so important, and what they’re bringing to light in their community in Nigeria,” said Elizabeth von der Goltz. “They’re crafted beautifully and look like something you could buy in the most luxurious retailers in the world.”

“This is a life-changing opportunity,” said Adeju Thompson. “It means that things will be easier for me; coming from Nigeria there’s no support. To have recognition from The Woolmark Company – wow, I’m so speechless and I’m looking forward to the future.” 

Roege Hove awarded the 2023 Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation

Photo by Julien M. Hekimian/Getty Images for The Woolmark Company.

Denmark’s A. Roege Hove was presented with the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation, after impressing the judges with the freshness of her collection and the attention paid to the supply chain and manufacturing process. A. Roege Hove is a conceptual knitwear brand that challenges traditions with a modern and artistic approach to original craftsmanship and an aim for silhouettes to be both effortless and extravagant. The unique designs are created each season by founder Amalie Røge Hove.

 “The way she constructed her collection and the emphasis on development. It felt new to me,” said Pieter Mulier.

 For A. Roege Hove, winning the International Woolmark Prize means the world.

 “We’ve been talking about how want to invest in innovation and new things in the studio,” said Hove. “Some of these things were out of reach but something like this makes it really possible. It really means everything.” 

Byborre receives the 2023 Supply Chain Award

Borre Akkersdijk wins the Supply Chain Award at the International Woolmark Prize 2023 at Le Petit Palais on May 15, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Julien M. Hekimian/Getty Images for The Woolmark Company)

Amsterdam-based textile innovation studio Byborre works on the frontiers of material development, functionality, and aesthetics to constantly innovate with engineered knits, pushing the limits of technical performance textiles. Starting with the design, materials, and engineering of multi-layered fabrics, Byborre was awarded this year’s supply chain award, recognized for the invaluable contribution it has paid to finalists across the past few years. Innovators and trailblazers, the studio continues to empower designers in a bid to democratize the supply chain to ensure it remains accessible to all.

“The International Woolmark Prize is an important stepping stone for the industry and a great example of how we can better support and promote future talent who is working on improving the world of tomorrow,” says Borre Akkersdijk. “Winning this prize for our efforts in the supply chain is not only a win for us but for all our partners doing the heavy lifting. It is so important to show all steps – from beginning to end – as there is innovation along the whole route that deserves a spotlight. For Byborre, this gives us extra energy and good attention to push further and lead more changes to come.”

2023’s The Woolmark Prize Designer contestants.

The International Woolmark Prize

The 2023 International Woolmark Prize finalists were: A. Roege Hove, Bluemarble, Lagos Space Programme, Marco Rambaldi, Maxxij, Paolina Russo, Rhude, and Robyn Lynch. Each showcased a commitment to upholding the prize’s pillars of product excellence, innovation, supply chain transparency, sustainability, and inclusivity.

The Innovation Academy provides IWP alumni and finalists with an education and mentoring program, offering unparalleled access to International Woolmark Prize partners and mentors supporting product development, research and development, business, and sustainability strategies. The program has brought together an experienced collective of 50 progressive international trade partners at different stages of the supply chain and manufacturing process to assist the eight finalists with product ideation, development, and commercial realization of concepts.

Fashion agency L’Amour Extreme will offer the winner a dedicated brand amplification package, helping elevate the designer’s reach to enter new markets.

The Woolmark Company is pleased to have the support of Innovation Academy partners Tilting the Lens, Common Objective, Queen of Raw, and Close to Clothes, its international global network of supply chain partners including Byborre, D-House, Knitwear Lab, Laxton’s, Studio Eva x Carola and studioe as well as official hotel partner Le Royal Monceau, hair partner Mr.Smith, and MV Skintherapy as beauty partner with make-up directed by Michelle Dacillo and a music program curated by We Love Green.

Image, top: Winners of the International Woolmark Prize 2023, with their models, at Le Petit Palais on May 15, 2023, in Paris, France. (Photo by Julien M. Hekimian/Getty Images for The Woolmark Company)