by Stephen Garner

SuketdhirOn Wednesday, January 13, India-based menswear label SUKETDHIR was announced as the winner of the 2015/2016 Menswear International Woolmark Prize, presented at a special event at Pitti Uomo in Florence, Italy.

SUKETDHIR will receive AU$100,000 (approximately $73,000 USD) to help support the development of their business and ongoing industry mentor support, as well as the presentation and sale of their capsule collection, created for the International Woolmark Prize, in some of the world’s most prestigious department stores and boutiques. These include (online), Isetan Mitsukoshi (Japan), David Jones (Australia), Saks Fifth Avenue (New York), 10 Corso Como (Milan) and Boon The Shop (South Korea).

The award was judged by a highly esteemed panel, including designer Haider Ackermann, The Business of Fashion founder and editor-in-chief Imran Amed, Vogue international editor Suzy Menkes, Esquire fashion director Nick Sullivan, GQ Japan editor-in-chief Masafumi Suzuki, Polimoda director of strategy and vision Linda Loppa, Pitti Immagine CEO Raffaello Napoleone, and The Woolmark Company managing director Stuart McCullough.

According to the judging panel, SUKETDHIR (which is designed by Suket Dhir) was a unanimous decision. “In fashion, I’m always looking for emotion, for the heartbeat, for the feeling that something excites me – it may come from an ancient skill but it seems fresh to me,” said Menkes.

Ackermann agreed. “For me, it wasn’t a hard decision,” he said. “Suket is a person with a dream to tell, and I thought that it was very beautiful, because fashion at this time is about a dream, and the rest – the business – will follow. And technically, he showed us details I’ve never seen before, and that’s very impressive.”

Dhir’s collection for the International Woolmark Prize cleverly fuses classic western tailoring with elements of the designer’s national dress, such as oversized proportions and lightweight fabrics. Using the traditional technique of hand-tied and dyed yarn (Ikat), the collection aims to “trace the mellowed and faded experiences of the past memories through the ombre pattern.” Seamless molding and heat setting of the fabric reinforces the garments. Meanwhile, the age-old technique of Kasui, a traditional hand embroidery, creates geometric, grid-like patterns in an update on the classic quilting stitch.

“This is certainly very overwhelming, and everything that I needed right now,” said Dhir. “I’ve done what I could in India, and this is the best thing that could happen to me for me to move in a bigger way. I think I’m ready for the world, and I also think the world is ready for me and for this kind of aesthetic. The look is easy and happy, and the world needs that right now.”

This is the second year that the International Woolmark Prize has included a menswear category, which was last year won by New York-based label Public School. More than 70 designers were considered for the prize over the past year, with the finalists representing six different regions around the world. These include Munsoo Kwon (Asia), P. Johnson (Australia), AGI & SAM (British Isles), Jonathan Christopher (Europe), SUKETDHIR (India, Pakistan and the Middle East) and Siki Im (USA).