Amid all the bespoke Italian tailoring, sockless loafers, excellent guest designers in the form of Junn.J and White Mountanering x adidas Originals, and the hundreds of displays and booths, Pitti Uomo was also home this year to the prestigious International Woolmark Prize event. The competition, coordinated, unsurprisingly, by Australian wool giants Woolmark, works with the most important global fashion bodies to seek out designers utilizing and ceaselessly innovating with Merino wool throughout their collections and pieces. Beginning with regional awards held across six areas of the world, the IWP then whittles things down to six menswear and six womenswear designers who eventually compete at a fashion calendar highlight like Pitti. Last year, as you’ll probably remember, it was NY-based super duo Public School who scooped the gong.
This time around, a whole host of talented names (some familiar, other less well known) made it through to the final, including Siki Im, whose dark, experimental menswear has won him many fans in the US and here, and our very own Agi & Sam – who have, of course, been making waves in London with their punchy, fresh designs for a while now. Still, despite strong entries from those buzzed labels, it was India’s SUKETDHIR who unanimously wowed the judges with his romantic collection and technical abilities.
The panel, which reads like a who’s-who of fashion’s biggest players (think Suzy Menkes, Imran Amed and Haider Ackermann), were deeply impressed by Dhir’s work for IWP: fusing classic Western tailoring with the oversized proportions, hand-dying techniques, and lightweight fabrications of his homeland, Dhir was praised by Menkes for locating the kind of “emotion” and “heartbeat” that she seeks in fashion – high praise indeed from the infamously discerning critic. Ackermann, meanwhile, explained that, “Suket is a person with a dream to tell, and I thought that it was very beautiful…And technically, he showed us details I’ve never seen before, and that’s very impressive.”
Dhir will receive AUS$ 100,000 and industry mentor support thanks to the competition, something he was understandably pretty pleased about, remarking, “this is certainly very overwhelming, and everything that I needed right now. I’ve done what I could in India, and this is the best thing that could happen to me for me to move in a bigger way. I think I’m ready for the world, and I also think the world is ready for me and for this kind of aesthetic. The look is easy and happy, and the world needs that right now.” A big year for Pitti, and an even better one for Dhir.