Yesterday afternoon, Belgian designer Christian Wijnants was announced as the winner of this year's International Woolmark European Prize. Fighting off competitors such as JW Anderson and James Long, Wijnants was crowned European wool champion by Lanvin's Alber Elbaz who, together with jury members Alexandra Shulman, German Vogue editor Christiane Arp and designer Giles Deacon, appreciated the Antwerp-based designer's use of Merino wool. As the representative for Europe, Wijnants will now face competitors from America, China, India and Australia, but can walk away with a $30,000 cash prize and a London Fashion Week show in February 2013.
I wanted to challenge myself only working with one type of yarn in 100% Merino Wool and to work on seamless garments, knitted in one piece. The entire collection is hand-knitted and hand-dyed in very deep colours inspired by crystals and minerals
Dazed Digital: How does it feel, were you surprised?
Christian Wijnants: It was such a big surprise when I heard Alber Elbaz say my name. I am so honoured to get the award from such a jury panel, I have a lot of respect for each of the them. It is very encouraging and motivating when so talented fashion personalities appreciate and recognise my work.
DD: When and why did you enter the competition?
Christian Wijnants: I was asked to represent Belgium for this competition because of my affinities with knitwear and especially with wool.
DD: Can you talk us through the collection you entered with?
Christian Wijnants: The collection (that I presented for Woolmark) is based on the simple idea to start from a single white yarn and to explore all possibilities you can achieve with it. I wanted to challenge myself only working with one type of yarn in 100% Merino Wool and to work on seamless garments, knitted in one piece. The entire collection is hand-knitted and hand-dyed in very deep colours inspired by crystals and minerals. After knitting, the white dress was tied between wood panels and dyed for several hours. The shape of the dress is very organic with big rounded sleeves, cocoon shaped, and at the same time follows the shape of the body.
DD: What's the biggest advantages with wool as a fabric?
Christian Wijnants: There are many advantages with merino wool; natural elasticity, warmth, comfort, timeless, sustainability. For the collection I will present in London, I will develop the same concept and experiment with just a yarn. Every piece will be dyed with different techniques, some of them will be dyed, unraveled and re-knitted to create a unique irregular effect.
DD: How did you celebrate?
Christian Wijnants: I ran to the best cupcake place in London to get boxes full of coloured cakes for my staff who helped me with this project!