There is something utterly fascinating to understand the process of producing a single fibre and the journey it takes to make up a coat, or pants or even the very tie you’re currently wearing. In an industry where fast fashion is dominating the creative landscape, the notion is often lost on the consumer. That is, however where emerging designers enter and they’re taking back the not-so-old concept of sustainable production.
This month, The Woolmark Company – the global authority on wool – announced the winner of its prestigious International Woolmark Prize. Chosen from more than 300 entrants from across the world, British-born, Paris-based namesake label Edward Crutchley was named the Menswear and Innovation Award winner, alongside Womenswear winner Colovos.
Hailing from the UK, his eponymous label brings a unique approach to artisanal textiles, one that is not often seen in the modern sphere. Equipped with a professional background in expert fabric and textile development and experience working with the likes of figurehead Kim Jones, it was only a matter of time before the designer broke out on his own. While his current – and winning – collection is rich in intricate detail and immersed in global references, his label was once far different to what can be appreciated today. Showing at London Fashion Week over the past 10 seasons, his work has shifted rather dramatically.
“I think I was designing what I thought people wanted. It was that moment in London when everyone was really fixated on sportswear and I thought that is what I needed to do to be successful,” Crutchley told ICON. “That first collection was fine. But I knew I wasn’t happy with it and I think it did take me a few seasons to get into my stride and realise that unless I was doing what I thought was interesting and relevant, there was no way I could expect anyone else to feel the same. Working on the Woolmark Prize has actually given me some of that feeling back. I took away the restrictions I had been packing on myself and really did exactly what I wanted. ”
Celebrating the untapped potential and innovative qualities of wool as a sustainable fibre, the Woolmark Prize celebrates its sustainable approach to system productions, something that Crutchley has an innate understanding on. Committing himself to use only merino wool – no blends – the designer pushed himself and the fibre to what was technically possible, and as seen in his current collection, resulted in an interesting range of weights and textures.
Experimenting with form, silhouette and surface, Crutchley looked outside of traditional cultural signifiers to unbroached identities. This culminated in a collection that fuses the classic biker jacket with 18th century outerwear, tie-die on college knits as well as ongoing references from the American cowboy identity – all constructed in 100 percent merino wool. And while the design ethos sits at the forefront on his work, the use of wool makes up an important component of the label.
“Well I think it’s clear to everyone (or at least should be) that the world is not in a great state. If we are going to use resources to make new things we have to try and do it in a way that causes as little damage as is possible,” he stated. “The joy of wool is that it is truly sustainable and bio degradable. It’s also extremely flexible in its applications and has wonderful insulating properties as well as being able to absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling wet.”
Largely talked about amongst society, ethical production of clothing is again another problem weaved throughout the industry and running hand-in-hand with the use of wool, family-owned production is a significant aspect of the label.
“For me it’s really important. I place a lot of trust in my suppliers and trust them to do what they do, with [myself] interfering at every step. Also given that my product is a higher price point I feel I have a responsibility to my customer to know how and where every element of the product is made,” Crutchley explained. “And personally I couldn’t make something where I knew someone was being exploited or not treated fairly. I’m very proud of the fact that I can get the name of every person who has laid their hands on each garment from start to finish.”
As part of the International Woolmark Prize, Edward Crutchley will have to opportunity to be stocked in some of the world’s most recognised stores including David Jones, Harvey Nichols, mytheresa.com, ORDRE and Parlour X.