Today was a historic day, and another first for Adebayo Oke Lawal. The designer and his team have had ample cause to celebrate in the last eighteen months, and whilst my next few words may seem basic to the casual observer, like just another feather in the cap of the Orange Culture brand.

It is, in fact quite momentous.

Orange Culture is in the semi finals for the International Woolmark Prize.

I鈥檒l run that again.

ORANGE CULTURE IS IN THE SEMI FINALS FOR THE INTERNATIONAL WOOLMARK PRIZE.

I basically (almost) broke my phone when I came across this news – a bit belatedly might I add. Why isn鈥檛 this all over the news?

 

For some context, famously started in 1953, the Woolmark prize was first won by Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent in 1954. Essentially, regardless of if he wins or not (and of course we are rooting for him all the way) Bayo has been ushered into a pantheon already occupied by legends. By virtue of his nomination alone, he has made history as the first African to even be in the running for this coveted prize.

Things have changed due to technology and the paradigm quake of inclusion and diversity spanning virtually every industry, and the Woolmark prize continues to evolve with the times. In the past, the only way to get in the proverbial door was via selection committee (typically the approved nominating bodies like the CFDA, Shanghai Fashion Week, Portugal Fashion Week & the Centre for Fashion Enterprise amongst others) which of course kept it fairly Euro and US centric, traditionally excluding markets in Africa, South America and Eastern Europe.

There have been non European winners in the past of course, Bodice – an Indian brand – took home the prestigious womenswear prize last year. However, for the first time the competition was open to all via the online portal. Orange Culture was one of the selected 42 designers – out of an initial 300 judged by the following criteria,

鈥楥reativity, originality of design, innovation and brand recognition鈥

This is beyond huge and the BNS Team is so happy for this talented designer.

Orange Culture will go on to pitch for a $70,000 investment in a Merino wool capsule, alongside mentoring, business training and showcasing opportunities at the New York heats. The 3 regional heats will identify the final 12 to be held at an international fashion week in early 2019.

 

The Advisory Council this year (aka jury) 聽include

  • Tim Blanks, Editor-At-Large, Business of Fashion
  • Jefferson Hack, Founder, Dazed Media
  • Christine Centenera, Fashion Director, Vogue Australia, and Co-Founder WARDROBE.NYC
  • Alison Veness, Editor of 10 and 10 Men Australia
  • Rebecca Khoury, Associate Editor of 10 and 10 Men Australia
  • Catherine Baba, Stylist, Designer, Consultant & Costume Designer
  • Sara Sozzani Maino, Deputy Editor-in-chief, Vogue Italia and Head of Vogue Talents
  • Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler, Co-Founders, Diet Prada
  • Gert Jonkers, Co-founder and Editor-in-chief, Fantastic Man
  • Christiane Arp, Editor-in-chief, Vogue Germany
  • Colin McDowell, Fashion Journalist and Commentator
@theorangenerd

According to The Woolmark Company Managing Director Stuart McCullough:

鈥楢s the International Woolmark Prize continues to evolve, we have restructured our program to ensure emerging design talent receives the highest level of industry support and guidance,鈥 he explains 鈥淭his year we invited designers to apply to participate in the program and this generated an overwhelming number of applicants, from New York, London and Tokyo through to Mexico, Russia and Nigeria. This reinforces our belief that the International Woolmark Prize has no geographical borders, that fashion has no boundaries and that Australian Merino wool will remain as relevant to fashion tomorrow as it does today.鈥

 

The winners, one menswear and one womenswear designer will each receive AU$200,000 at the global final along with the sale of their capsule collection, created for the International Woolmark Prize, in some of the world鈥檚 most prestigious department stores and boutiques around the globe that have committed to supporting the award.

These include but are not limited to MyTheresa.com (online), SSENSE (online), David Jones (Australia), Saks Fifth Avenue/Hudson鈥檚BayCo (US/Canada), Harvey Nichols (UK) and Boon The Shop (South Korea).

 

The Innovation Award will also be presented, for a second year, to one finalist, with a financial contribution of AU$100,000. All International Woolmark Prize finalists will receive sales support and mentoring for commercialisation opportunities.

Past Woolmark Prize winners include Teatum Jones, Suketdhir, Bodice, Sophie Theallet, Gabriela Hearst and Altuzarra.

 

Discover all the 2018/2019 nominees here.

We can’t wait to see what Bayo does next, he will undoubtedly do us proud!