— July 25, 2013 —

meet the judges: simon lock

Simon Lock is an international fashion expert with specific experiene in the growth and development of fashion weeks, award programs and festivals across the world. In 1995, Mr Lock launched Australian Fashion Week, the first fashion week in the southern hemisphere to be recognised on the international fashion week circuit. Australian Fashion Week has since expanded into a world-class fashion event attracting thousands of fashion industry insiders from all over the world and has recently become backed by Mercedes-Benz, who is also the flagship sponsor of New York Fashion Week. He was Managing Director of Fashion for Asia Pacific with New York-based International Management Group, before launching his own strategic consulting services business, and now works closely with the International Woolmark Prize each year, scouring the world for new design talent to embrace and support.

Why are awards like the International Woolworth Prize (IWP) important?
The International Woolworth Prize really stands on its own. There is not another global emerging designer programme of this type. Certainly, there are many fashion designer competitions which tend to be territory-based, but the International Woolmark Prize is in fact global, encompassing: North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia, and it will hopefully expand to embrace the entire world. Here in Asia, we really stepped up the game. Last year only encompassed China. This year we’ve expanded to Hong Kong, Japan and Korea. It’s opened up a greater depth of talent in the region, the caliber of the design has been really great, and it’s given Asia the a greater opportunity to knock out the competition and take the international prize.

How does the IWP create new opportunities for the up-and-coming designers?
What’s great about it is the fact that over the past six months, there have been about 50 designers involved in the programme, so 10 nominees from each of the five regions. They’ve been taken on a journey to the final and along the way, they got a lot of help, support, and advice. The 10 designers who we’ve nominated in Asia have had the opportunity to speak and work with people like Kevin Carrigan of Calvin Klein, Angelica Cheung of Vogue China, Bartley Ingram from Joyce. They’re now connected to these people. The process, the journey has been rewarding already for those 50 or so who were nominated.

For the winner, the cash prize is fantastic, but I think ultimately it’s the journey that becomes important, the relationships, and what they learn. Five people will be taken to Milan Fashion Week to be judged, and the one who wins there will receive an enormous amount of money. More importantly, they’ll receive an enormous amount of wholesale orders from some of the leading buyers from around the world. That’s more valuable than anything else.

What does it mean for a designer to be associated with the Woolmark logo?
It has a point of difference. Wool is a natural, luxury fibre. Consumers are understanding more and more that it has a premium value at the point of sale, and that adds value to any designer’s name and garment. It’s not a synthetic or a technical fabric; It’s beautiful to touch, feel and wear.

How have you found young designers work with wool?
I’m amazed at the technology and innovation that’s driven the development of wool fibre over the years. It was once regarded as a scratchy wool jumper. So, to see these beautiful, fine, cool summer-weight fabrics, or to see the way it can knitted, woven, incorporated or laminated, it’s quite incredible. The thing that I’m finding most exciting is that young designers are saying, “We’re not going to look backwards, we’re going to look forwards,” and that’s adding a new dimension to the Woolmark brand.

Europe has historically been the global fashion centre. What role does Asia now play?
I think Asia and Asian consumers have always looked to international brands for the status quo. So, there hasn’t been much respect for homegrown designers, apart from in Japan with Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garcons, and a few others. But I think we’re about to see a huge interest in Asian designers. It’s as a result, quite frankly, of the Asian heritage designers who are now making their mark about the world. Alexander Wang, Jason Wu, and Philip Lim weren’t necessarily born in Asia, but they are Asian and I think that’s sparked the attention of the fashion world. They’re creating a new generational pathway for Asian designers. I’d like to think that some of the designers we’re identifying with the International Woolmark Prize can follow in their footsteps.

See more from the Woolmark Prize here.