Over a Zoom call with fashion icon Carine Roitfeld, the Yorkshire-based womenswear designer Matty Bovan was told that they had scooped a double win at this year's International Woolmark Prize - making them only the second to do so. Bovan, a prized designer on the London schedule loved for their graphic prints and brightly dyed knits, is the recipient of both the 2021 International Woolmark Prize and the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation.
The annual prize promotes craftsmanship, and primarily, the versatility of wool - a key material for Bovan who studied knitwear at Central Saint Martins. Based in York, Bovan has long resisted the trappings of being a London-centric designer, which has only added to his success - winning the LVMH Graduate Prize and working with Marc Jacobs and Miu Miu, Bovan favours local suppliers, craftspeople and manufacturers, each season placing focus on jacquard weave techniques and knit. The Woolmark prize spotlights Australian Merino wool, with this year's theme 'Less is More' making a firm nod towards sustainability. Each of the six finalists were asked to create a sustainability roadmap, and made their collections entirely traceable using technology from Blue Bite.
The collection Bovan presented is edited down from their A/W 21 collection Ode to the Sea. Using the metaphor of being caught in a storm at sea, the collection told the narrative of a world flipped on its head - asymmetrical, sculptural skirts, knit gloves, a shearling coat dyed in a cacophany of acidic tones, deadstock fabric from AW Hainsworth and intarsia knits portraying ghostly figures make up Bovan's characteristic bricolage aesthetic, which speaks here to the year the pandemic changed everything.
'It’s a huge honour to win these prizes and I’m so excited for where it’s going to take me – I was already so thrilled with the Woolmark Prize platform and experience...Being a part of the International Woolmark Prize has really helped elevate my brand and elevate my awareness and knowledge of how I operate as a business and as a label. It’s been amazing and I have loved every minute of it', said Bovan of the win.
Mentor and stylist Katie Grand commented: 'Matty Bovan has always been an exceptional talent, his work since leaving Central Saint Martins in 2015 has continued to be thoughtful, provocative and has steadily been conscious and political. I couldn't be happier for him to win these very important awards - and chosen by such brilliant people. He deserves them.'
Alongside Roitfeld, stylist Ib Kamara, media mastermind Shaway Yeh, writer and activist Sinéad Burke, entrepreneur Tasha Liu, designer Thom Browne, fashion critic Tim Blanks and textile agent Julie Davies judged this year's finalists.
'What impressed me about Matty is his capacity to win both awards - for his innovation and creativity and I really think he deserves it. He is pure fashion, he makes me dream and he reminds me of a young Vivienne Westwood or a John Galliano and we desperately need that sort of designer in the fashion world of today', Roitfeld said of the decision to select Bovan.
Later this year Bovan, who is a recipient of the BFC NEWGEN bursary in partnership with TikTok, will create an installation at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Watch this space.