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Christian Wijnants

The Belgian designer and Woolmark Prize winner speaks to Graeme Moran about his Paris catwalk debut.

You recently won the International Woolmark Prize - how was that?

It was a great honour. I’m very happy to represent Woolmark as I love using wool; it’s a natural and rich fibre, a timeless but affordable luxury. The concept for the Woolmark collection was to make a collection in 100% merino wool. It’s hand-knitted and hand-dyed and is almost sculptural, as I like to work the knitwear in just one piece without any seams, and in 3D shapes.

What was it like showing your collection at Paris Fashion Week this month?

It was great. After four years I decided to have a catwalk show this season. Bringing the collection to life on a stage is always a magical moment.

How was it studying at Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts?

It was very hard. It’s a very good school but you need to work extremely hard. The teachers are very demanding and there are only a few students graduating each year.

You also won the Christine Mathijs Prize from Dries Van Noten for your graduate collection in 2000 - how did that feel?

It was a very emotional award. Christine Mathijs was Dries Van Noten’s business partner who died from cancer in 1998. I’d met her a few years before and loved her personality. She was a very charismatic lady and helped many young designers in Belgium.

After graduating you worked at Dries Van Noten before launching your own label. Why did you decide to go it alone?

In 2001 I won the Festival of Hyères Award [a French award for young talent] with my graduate collection and
started to sell it internationally. I met many buyers and journalists who were interested in my work. They kept asking me if I had a new collection, so I felt the moment was right to start.

What’s next for the brand? Would you ever do menswear?

I’d love to work on a menswear collection but it’s not for the near future. I want to focus my attention on womenswear and launch a pre-collection for spring 14.

Where are your favourite places to shop?

I love shopping in Italy; in each small city or village you’ll find amazing stores, either with local brands or international designers - it’s very mixed and often unexpected. I also love food stores and I’m crazy about markets with fresh products in Italy. You can find delicious things.

If you could dress one person, alive or dead, who would it be?

Preferably alive, Charlotte Gainsbourg.


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