A couple of months ago,when the announcement was made that the International Woolmark Prize–known for nurturing the talent of fashion giants like Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld– willl open the competition to Indian designers for the first time,the fashion industry saw it as another big opportunity to be noticed internationally. On Thursday evening,when designer duo Pankaj and Nidhi won this esteemed prize at an event held at Leela Palace in Delhi,the relevance clicked into place.
Competing against some of India’s brightest young designers — Aneeth Arora,Arjun Saluja,Gaurav Gupta,Rahul Mishra,Rimzim Dadu,Ritesh Kumar,Samant Chauhan,Smita-Himanshu and Zubair Kirmani — the husband wife duo of Pankaj and Nidhi won over the jury with their interpretation of merino wool through vibrant colours and sleek cuts. The winning piece was a short,fitted dress inspired by Japanese and other Eastern cultures. “We have used the basket weave in our design and in the garment itself,giving a sort of ‘samurai’ feel to it. Merino wool is really easy to work with,and we thought this design did justice to it,” said Nidhi,adding that it was an honour to be competing for the prize. This win ensures a sponsored showcase of their collection at the London Fashion Week next year and later they would be in reckoning for the international competiton for the Woolmark Prize which will have winners from other countries. The competition has two stages: the regional contest in India,Europe,Australia,China and the US,followed by the final round .
The two other finalists in the Indian leg were Gaurav Gupta and Rahul Mishra,while the “special recommendation” prize went to Samant Chauhan for his one piece wool dress. “India is an emerging country in terms of fashion,and I think there are many designers who have the potential to be world leaders,” said Simon Lock,one of the jury members,also the founder of Australian Fashion Week. “The great advantage of Indian designers is that they are blessed with a rich heritage and handloom culture. The only thing they have to do is to think globally and make a design that is universally acceptable,” added Lock. The other judges included Sunil Sethi,president of Fashion Design Council of India,Pradeep Hirani of Kimaya Fashion and Priya Tanna,editor of Vogue India.
The winners of regional rounds will receive 50,000 Australian dollars (approx Rs 28 lakh ) as a contribution for their next collection which will be shown at London Fashion Week in 2013, while the winner of the final round gets a chance to retail his/her collection through international retail stores,including Harvey Nichols in Britain and Lane Crawford in China,and will receive another 1,00,000 Australian dollars (approx Rs 56 lakh ).