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Finalists for the prestigious Woolmark Prize, championing sustainable design, announced

<i>Alet Pretorius/Gallo Images/Getty Images</i><br/>MMUSOMAXWELL debuts its Autumn-Winter 2019 at South African Fashion Week in 2018.
Gallo Images
Alet Pretorius/Gallo Images/Getty Images
MMUSOMAXWELL debuts its Autumn-Winter 2019 at South African Fashion Week in 2018.

Leah Dolan, CNN

The International Woolmark Prize 2022, a prestigious award for emerging designers committed to lessening fashion’s environmental impact, has unveiled its seven finalists.

The new cohort of fashion talent — including British labels Ahluwalia and Saul Nash, American designer Peter Do, Chinese label Rui, along with South African womenswear brand MMUSOMAXWELL, French label EGONlab and Australian designer Jordan Dalah — have been dubbed “creative game-changers” by The Woolmark Company CEO, John Roberts, for their dedication to responsible sourcing and design practices.

This year, designers will interpret the theme “play” while tasked with creating a new collection made entirely of Merino wool, all the while detailing the sustainability of their supply chain. The prize was founded in 1936 by Australian brand The Woolmark Company in an attempt to bring the material into the luxury market. Since the first competition 85 years ago, storied fashion designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, and more recently, Gabriela Hearst have all competed and placed in the Woolmark Prize.

“As the award continues to evolve, our aim is to support designers to think beyond today, highlighting the innovation, versatility and sustainability of Merino wool,” said Roberts in a statement.

Beyond funding, the competition presents a number of opportunities for the designers involved, including a chance to experiment.

“My knowledge of wool is quite limited, as I’ve been more focused on denim and sportswear materials,” Priya Ahluwalia, winner of the 2021 Queen Elizabeth II design award, told CNN Style in an email. “However, I think this is a good problem to have as it gives me the opportunity to learn as much as possible and approach the challenge with fresh eyes.”

In addition to the main prize of AU$200,000 (US$144,000) the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation, worth AU$100,000 (US$72,000), is also up for grabs. The winners will be selected by a panel of industry experts — including Business of Fashion editor-at-large Tim Blanks and Farfetch chief brand officer, Holli Rogers — and judged on both their artistic flair and environmental innovation.

As well as helping to champion more sustainable fashion practices, the Woolmark Prize also provides an important platform for new talent. “Winning the prize will help us gain access to the fashion ecosystem that is often out of reach for African brands,” said MMUSOMAXWELL designers, Mmuso Potsane and Maxwell Boko, over email. “The financial backing will provide support to further develop and continue our work with local craftsman and artisans, but most importantly to create job opportunities in our community.”

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