Belgian knitwear designer Christian Wijnants scooped the International Woolmark prize last night at a packed London Fashion Week show, in front of a judging panel that included ELLE cover star Victoria Beckham, Donatella Versace and Diane von Furstenberg.
In a collection that was based on hand-knitting and hand-dyeing techniques and with colours inspired by crystals and minerals, the judges praised the designers unpretentious yet timeless work with merino wool. Wijnants beat off competition from Australias Dion Lee, the USAs Sophie Theallet, Chinas Ban Xiao Xue, Indias Pankaj and Nidhi and Japans Takeshi Kitazawa and Emiko Sato for the $105,000 dollar prize money and the chance to be stocked in some of the biggest boutiques across the globe from London's Harvey Nichols to Corso Como in Milan and Bergdorf Goodman in New York.
British Fashion Council chairman Natalie Massenet opened the event, reminding the London Fashion Week audience how the Woolmark Prize launched the careers of Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent in the 1950s. Previous winners of the award also include Dolce & Gabbana in 1991.