Christian Wijnants wins European regional Woolmark Prize 2012

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The nineteen nominees for the European branch of the International Woolmark Prize, gathered in London yesterday, to find out which of them would go through to the global competition in February 2013. The prize was eventually taken by Belgian designer, Christian Wijnants, with a dramatic structural piece: an ombre knitted sweater dress, featuring a bold sweep of colour from jonquil through to deep grey.

An illustrious panel, including designers Giles Deacon, Dean and Dan Caten from DSquared, Alber Elbaz, as well as leading fashion journalists Tim Blanks, Alexandra Shulman and (moderator) Colin McDowell, judged the competition.

The buoyant, jovial atmosphere on stage suggested that the panel had had much fun alongside the serious business of judging work by some of Europe’s most accomplished young designers. Colin McDowell proved himeself a great raconteur, berating the declining standards of fashion journalism: “week by week it gets worse!” (with the noted exception of panellist Tim Blanks, praised for his intelligence and humour). Meanwhile, Alber Elbaz raised the heartiest laughter, by confessing his hatred of speech giving whilst comparing himself to Heidi Klum: “you’re in, you’re out!”

The British nominees were JW Anderson and James Long. Anderson’s entry showed evidence of his history in theatrical costume, with complex layering over a heavy, serge-like skirt whilst Long’s work also featured layering, this time incorporating a short leather-panelled jacket with fringed sleeves over a long, pleated skirt with a palette of greys, cream and black.

As a menswear writer, ever on the look out for things I can wear, my attention was drawn to the only menswear piece being presented, a very striking look by Sweden’s House of Dagmar, incorporating a shaggy looped jacket over dramatic cream collars and black boots with a red wool detail.

Winner Christian Wijnants has a very impressive CV: having graduated from Antwerp’s legendary Royal Academy of Fine Arts, he has presented for 18 seasons in Paris and has worked for one of Belgium’s most respected designers, Dries Van Noten.