WITH PAST winners of the International Woolmark Prize (IWP) including Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent as well as India’s Rahul Mishra and Suket Dhir, it’s no wonder the prize is coveted in fashion circles. Constituted in 1953 by the International Wool Secretariat to showcase Australian Merino wool and recognise design talent from around the world, this award has 80 designers from 62 countries vying for the 2016-17 honour. Part of the India, Pakistan and Middle East, Regional Round, this year will be Nachiket Barve — who makes it to the shortlist for the second year in a row — Sahil Kochhar and Rina Singh of Eka in the womenswear category, and Zubair Kirmani of Bounipun in menswear.
Barve, who presented a line in collaboration with Woolmark in Chandigarh in February, and participated in the company’s Cool Wool designer showcase in Mumbai in March, says, “I’ve been working with cool wool and The Woolmark Company over the past year. It has been an extension of my label — India modern, with intensive craft and innovation, but for a global audience.”
Singh, who launched her label Eka in 2011, says, “For me, it has been an exciting and academic process. I have worked with wool in my past collections but, for a competition of this stature, I’m looking forward to developing a special blend of wool, silk and linen.” Her “feminine, dreamy and soulful” line will be inspired by the premise of unfinished artwork. “I draw from the incomplete works of artists, writers and poets,” says Singh.
While understated Kashmiri designer Kirmani and his decade-old label Bounipun, prep for this year’s contest, Kochhar, who trained under couturier Rohit Bal, continues to work on craft-derived collections that have built his brand’s reputation in the four short years of its existence.
The regional finals will be held in Mumbai on July 15, following which all the menswear finalists will meet in London in January, 2017, and the womenswear finalists will meet in Paris in March, 2017.