Denim Inspiration at The International Woolmark Prize

While the bundled up, blustery cold days of New York Fashion Week seem like an age away, we wanted to recap on The International Woolmark Prize that was held during the NY schedule back in February.

This year presented an interesting mix of upcoming designers from around the world, with many of the finalist selections looking to denim or indigo as inspiration for their creations in merino wool.

With a huge prize money at stake – in the case of Woolmark, $100,000 AUD plus mentorship and the chance to be stocked at prestigious department stores like Harvey Nichols, Isetan and Saks Fifth Avenue – the competition was hot. Plus this year’s show was headed up by a tough judging panel that included the likes of Andre Leon Talley, Julie Gilhart, Tim Blanks and Stefano Tonchi.

But what emerged at the Woolmark Prize was a common interest in the balance between an innovative technique in the use of Merino wool and a fascinating backstory behind the collection that could be communicated to consumer.

Here we take a look at some of the most interesting collections:

J Koo


J Koo, from South Korea, designed by Jinwoo Choi and Yeonjoo Koo were one of the most standout at the show, judge Tim Blanks dubbed their collection to be made of “wenim” – as in woven wool made to look like denim.  Marking high on technique, the Central St Martins graduates collection used an exhaustive process of dyeing, bleaching, washing, rinsing and sand papering all done by hand, Choi and Koo came up with a fabrication that had the look of roughed up and frayed denim but with the tactile feel of soft wool.

Jonathan Christopher


Dutch designer, Jonathan Christopher is all too familiar with denim and design competitions, having won the Global Denim Awards in Amsterdam just last winter. A graduate from Willem de Kooning Academy, the designer’s main inspiration for the Woolmark Prize collection was “based on the fishermen risking their life on the sea”, which explains the big shapes and silhouettes that imitates the clothes of a fisherman. Working in collaboration with Italian denim producer ITV, Christopher looked to a hybrid blend of wool and denim that offered the rugged look of denim, but with the soft touch handle of merino wool. The designer added a range of denim treatments and finishes like leather-look and waterproof coatings and a bleach wash that looks like that crashing waves of the sea.

Agi & Sam


Agape Mdumulla and Sam Cotton believe that fashion should never be taken too seriously, and by creating a brand where bespoke print and humour is in main focus, they’ve proved to be right. For their collection presented at the Woolmark Prize, the duo found their inspiration in a small African tribe in Ghana, and combining it with the traditional 18th Century military uniform. Agi & Sam might not be all about denim but that doesn’t mean indigo hasn’t still played a role in this collection. Our favourite shade of blue on utility wear could only remind us of what is close to our hearts – denim.

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