Yesterday, the great and the good in fashion gathered in London to crown the winner of the European Woolmark Prize – the award that launched Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent’s careers. Wonderland catches up with winner Christian Wijnants.
First off, congratulations on the award! You beat out designers like JW Anderson for the prize. What does this mean for you to have people like Alber Elbaz and Alexandra Schulman give you the prize?
It’s a lot of press, it’s money [the winner takes home $50,000], I can build up a bigger collection – all that is good, but on a personal level it’s really important. It’s not just the award, it’s the fact that you’re showing your work year after year and you’re confronted with critics all the time – it’s a very hard world. Like everyone else, I doubt myself. To have these amazing people telling you you’re doing a good job is a big motivation.
You work a lot with wool already in your own collection. What attracts you to wool?
It’s so rich, you can do so many things with it. You can experiment with shapes, stitches, colours. Acrylic and nylon just don’t give the same sensation in terms of natural elasticity – it’s a very gratifying material. It’s timeless. You can have a merino sweater for the next 15 years. I have sweaters that are 20 years old!
What kind of woman do you design for?
I don’t design for one type of woman. I really like the idea that my clothes are ending up in Moscow and New Zealand, and a totally different woman will buy and make the clothes her own. As a designer, I don’t think we are dictators in telling people what to do, we are proposing ideas and clothes.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on my own collection for Spring/Summer 2013 and now I’ll start producing the sketches I presented here.
Do you have any of your own beloved pieces of knitwear, then?
My mother used to hand knit a lot of sweaters when we were children. She’s from the countryside so she likes natural fibres – like me. The funny thing is, I still wear a sweater she knit for my father when I was small. It’s a grey mélange and the sleeves are totally destroyed, but I still love it!
Words: Zing Tsjeng
Images: Jon Furniss