Irish designer Richard Malone takes out the prestigious Woolmark Prize in London

Richard Malone and Emily Adams Bode are two fashion designers so resolutely of this moment it's just about essential to keep an eye on their work.

Both are the antithesis to fast fashion, which is, it must be said, an industry resolutely not of this moment.

While it can seem that every brand is paying lip service to sustainability and craftsmanship with varying degrees of sincerity, Malone and Bode are the real deal.

Malone was deemed the winner of this year's prestigious Woolmark Prize (while New York-based Bode won the newly introduced Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation, in honour of the late designer who won the competition in 1954) by a panel that included Dior Men's artistic director Kim Jones, British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful and the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. 

This year's prize focused on supply train traceability and each of the ten finalists produced a collection of six fully traceable garments made in merino wool. The aims of the prize felt particularly relevant this year given the efforts the industry is making in doing things better.

This includes the big brands joining French president Emmanuel Macron's Fashion Pact, and pledging to unite on three environmental goals, the brands investing in communities such as Australian denim label Outland Denim and Balenciaga's jarring message on climate change at Paris Fashion Week this month when Demna Gvasalia flooded the first three rows alongside the catwalk (and also sent down some killer clothes). The Business of Fashion's 2020 State of Fashion report says that this will be the year fashion has to take sustainability seriously, because increasingly, its customers do.

Stuart McCullough, managing director of Woolmark and CEO of Australian Wool Innovation, says wool, being biodegradable and renewable, is "perfectly aligned" with this shift toward sustainable fashion and he believes we will continue to see more of it.

Malone is radically transparent in his supply chain - down to publishing the wages of his workers in his show notes, and his clothes are beautiful. While Bode, the first female designer to show at New York men's fashion week has earned a cult following for the thrifted and vintage fabrics that she uses to create new, and super cool, definitions of all-American sportswear.

Malone, who hails from rural Ireland and is a graduate of London's Central Saint Martins, also repurposes and reuses fabric, only works with weavers and mills that have regenerative initiatives and every piece is made-to-order so to eliminate waste.


Working sustainably was always part of Malone's plan.

"We have a non-negotiable policy on sustainability since I founded the brand, hopefully it allows us to share research and development so other companies can adapt and play catch up," he says, adding that he will use the AUD$200,000 winnings from the International Woolmark Prize to continue his research and development in his brand's supply chain. 

But ultimately, while luxury now doesn't feel like it anymore unless it's made well, under good conditions and with materials that don't harm the planet, what Richard Malone and Emily Adams Bode ultimately offer is specialness. One-of-a-kind interesting things that somebody else won't have.

And if that's something you take care of and treasure forever well then isn't that just about the definition of sustainability?