Launched in 1953 and halted briefly in 2008, the accolade was revived last year, with Belgian designer Christian Wijnants taking home the A$100,000 (HK$770,000) prize.
This time around, the contest was expanded to include contenders from the mainland, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea, and two Hong Kong-based brands – ffiXXed and Plotz – are among 10 Asian nominees.
The two home-grown brands will be up against 47 other emerging designers across Australia, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the United States, according to Woolmark’s recently unveiled list.
“We are very excited to have two Hong Kong brands this year,” says Simon Locke, a judge for the regional competition. “For me, [ffixxed and Plotz] have their own unique handwriting along with universal appeal. Not only have they achieved that fine balance between art and commerce, but they are also viable businesses.”
All 10 Asian nominees will present a capsule collection (comprising six sketches and one complete look) made of Merino wool at the regional finals in Hong Kong next month. The winner will then compete for the overall prize alongside other finalists in Milan next year.
Although both brands are relatively new – Plotz was established in 2007 while ffiXXed came a year later – they have already received a fair amount of recognition here and abroad.
Plotz is a local brand through and through: its founder, Singchin Lo, was born and raised in the city and graduated from Polytechnic University’s School of Design in 2005.
“I was your typical kid – I never liked to study, but I loved drawing. Fashion design appealed to me because it was about creating something from nothing. I love to design things freely with no restrictions, whether people like it or not,” says the 31-year-old.