The International Woolmark Prize is one of fashion’s most prestigious and lucrative awards for rising design talent, inviting innovation with merino wool. Yesterday evening (26 April 2022), in a ceremony in London, British designer Saul Nash – known for innovative, sportswear-inspired menswear that draws on his background as a dancer and choreographer – was awarded the AUD200,000 prize for his merino capsule collection, selected from seven finalists from around the world. ‘Words cannot describe what this means to me,’ the designer said after the announcement.

Nash’s collection comprised bold intarsia knits and riffs on his recognisable signatures – notably, elements that transform with the needs of the body in movement – here crafted in wool rather than nylon or other technical fabrics. ‘I did a lot of knitwear for my master’s, but then when I left [university] and started a brand, I had to put it on hold,’ Nash tells Wallpaper*. ‘What’s been so amazing with the Woolmark Prize is that I’ve been able to create knit garments that are just as intricate [as my other pieces] – it really helped me advance what I was doing. The properties of wool are amazing for activewear – for wicking, for temperature control.’

A graduate of London’s Royal College of Art’s master’s programme, Nash began his label in 2018, becoming part of talent incubator Fashion East a year later. His shows often feature elements of performance, storytelling and dance, which draw on his formative years growing up in north-east London (in his acceptance speech, Nash thanked the dance community he remains a part of). His A/W 2022 collection ‘Ritual’ – which featured several of the pieces created for the International Woolmark Prize – looked towards his Afro-Caribbean heritage and rituals of spirituality, displayed via a short film by longtime collaborator Fx Goby. 

Runway image Saul Nash AW22, winner International Woolmark Prize
Saul Nash A/W 2022, featuring a winning merino look

Nash says he will use his winnings to expand his team and strengthen the infrastructure surrounding his young label. ‘The biggest thing we need is more people,’ he says. ‘There’s a point when seasons come so quickly – I want to put someone on material innovation, because that’s something that constantly needs to be addressed. As you grow, you need that support around you. That’s the beautiful thing about winning prizes.’

South-African label Mmusomaxwell took home the Karl Lagerfeld Prize for Innovation, the brand highlighted by the judges for its dedication to slow, small-batch production that utilises local raw material and artisans. ‘Winning means everything to us,’ say Mmusomaxwell designers Maxwell Boko and Mmuso Potsane. ‘It allows us to continue working with artisans and to further explore with merino wool, which is fantastic for us. It’s mind-blowing.’ 

The other finalists included Ahluwalia (United Kingdom), Egonlab (France), Jordan Dalah, (Australia), Peter Do (USA) and Rui (China). Collections were presented in a colourful space inspired by the work of Japanese artist Isamu Noguchi and the ‘art of play’ (Woolmark partnered with the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum on the project). An accompanying short film, starring musician FKA Twigs and featuring the finalists’ work, also played at the event. §