Woolmark Prize: Netherlands and Sweden named European finalists

Northern Europe has once again shone at the Woolmark Prize finals. Three young designers hailing from The Netherlands and Sweden have taken out the European final of the prestigious competition, dedicated to emerging talent, at a ceremony in Milan on Tuesday.

Dutch designer David Laport won the women's category and Swedish label L’Homme Rouge, helmed by Jonatan Härngren and John-Ruben Holtback, were crown winners of the menswear category.

European winners - Woolmark - Woolmark

The two winners, who beat out 17 other rivals including France's Valentin and Florentin Glemarec from menswear brand Icosae, will represent Europe in their respective men's and women's categories. The Woolmark final will take place in Florence in January 2018, coinciding with menswear tradeshow Pitti Uomo.

A victory at the European regional final saw both parties receive prize money worth 48,000 euros (AU$70,000), which will allow each label to develop a collection made of out merino wool in the coming months, after presenting a single look to the jury this week. 

David Laport, aged 30, was born in the city of Goes, in the Netherlands' south. He has always been passionate about movement in clothing and its form, working with fabrics directly on the sewing bust, much like a sculptor.

"I started out in the theatre making costumes, then I shifted toward fashion," said the designer, who is now based in Amsterdam. The Dutchmen has since expanded his credentials, collaborating with the Dutch national ballet, as well as department stores and local brands.

David Laport and his womenswear look presented at the regional European final - Woolmark

Graduating from the Royal Academy of Art in La Haye in 2012, he threw caution to the wind and launched his own brand in 2013, distinguishing himself via classic feminine looks and uniques materials backed by extensive research. 

His couture and demi-couture collections are currently sold in two stores in Amsterdam and he sells privately to clients, which include Australian singer Sia. This season, David Laport plans to debut a ready-to-wear collection.

The men's brand L’Homme Rouge started out in 2013 in Sweden's Gothenburg. The line was born out of a meeting between thirty-year-old John-Ruben Holtback, managing director of the brand, his brother Carl Johan, and their friend Axel Trägärdh, with Jonatan Härngren, aged 28, joining the troupe in 2015 as creative director.

"I have always wanted to design and had aspirations for fashion. So, I launched this brand as a project at the end of my studies. It's called L’Homme Rouge, because it's a story about a passion for fashion," John-Ruben Holtback told FashionNetwork.com, who at the time of the brand launch was enrolled at the Swedish business school Lund.

"Jonatan and I look to the same references. It has felt natural working together. Little by little, we've seen success, today reaching revenues of 600,000 euros," continued Holtback.

Jonatan Härngren (centre) with John-Ruben Holtback (right) and a look from their label L'Homme Rouge (left) - Woolmark

"The label looks to explore the boundaries of menswear by renewing its codes. It's distinguished by a nordic palette, with a big focus on fabric and a mix of cultural influences," explained Jonatan Härngren, a design school graduate from Copenhagen whose father was a painter.

L’Homme Rouge is sold across 35 multi-brand retailers in Sweden and in 45 stores across the globe, including Elevation Store in the Marais in Paris. There are also plans for further international expansion.

"[L'Homme Rouge] presented themselves as a fully-fledged brand with very desirable products in a Scandinavian style. We chose them because they have great potential," said the designer Damir Doma, president of the menswear jury.

Translated by Benjamin Fitzgerald

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