Angelica Cheung has been editorial director of Vogue China since she launched it in 2005. She has used the pages of Vogue China to bring the Chinese fashion industry to international prominence and has provided a vibrant platform for local fashion talent. Therefore, she was a natural fit to be on the judging panel of this year's Woolmark Prize Asia, alongside International Woolmark Prize 2012 winner Christian Wijnants, global head of creative for Calvin Klein Kevin Carrigan and JOYCE's Bartley Ingram. The ever glamourous and ever gracious Angelica had a lot of interesting things to say about the Woolmark Prize, the use of wool and, of course, fashion in Asia.
Vogue China Editor-in-Chief, Angelica Cheung.
What is the significance of the International Woolmark Prize for designers and for the industry in general?
Because of Woolmark’s heritage and its commitment to discovering new designers, this is a very important award. All the designers know it; People who study fashion know about this prize, and that attracts talent. Woolmark obviously has a responsibility to promote wool as a raw material, but they also encourage the designers to treat wool in modern, innovative ways.
Is it all about being the winner?
Ultimately, only one person wins the right to participate in the international competition, but the process is very important for all the participants. With Woolmark and Vogue as a partner, we try to provide a lot of the training, a lab and the material sources. Therefore, even the participants who do not win have an experience that they otherwise would not have had. I feel that’s actually much more meaningful than being the winner.
What do you look for when judging the candidates of the IWP?
What I’m looking for is the total package. We had a very good judging panel this year; each judge really had the experience and the eye to evaluate the nominees. It can be quite hard. In some candidates, you see really beautifully made, good quality clothes. And then you have to ask yourself, “Does the world really need another one like that?” Then you might see some really interesting ideas, but they’re not well executed.
Vogue China, July 2013 cover.
Which qualities in particular make up the winning total package?
First, the designer really has to respect wool. We want to see good ideas for how to use this material.
Secondly, you need to be able to imagine people wearing the clothes because we want the winner to be successful as a brand, not just as an artist. We can only give you the prize once. After that, you have to generate your own money to sustain your business, which means you have to sell your clothes.
Third, on the basis that the clothes will sell, you need to add a little twist. Everybody knows MaxMara sells, but if you do a “MaxMara” why would anybody go to you - a nobody - instead of something that already exists? So I look for something that will give people that reason to go to a young designer.
Fourthly, I feel I need to look at the person’s communication skills. In today’s business, it’s very important that the designer knows how to sell himself or herself. They can't just get the message across with good design, they also must be very good with people. You get a feeling for whether the person would be good with the media, with partners. In order to run a successful business, you need to be able to work with people.
The fifth element to me is the quality. Along with the ideas, the commercial side, all that, the person needs to have an innate sense of quality, which I find lacking in young designers sometimes. At the end of the day, if the clothes look good but the buyer buys it then finds a seam rubs uncomfortably or a button drops off after a few days [it’s a problem]. You cannot sustain success if you don’t have good quality.
Vogue China's Angelica Cheung with Woolmark Prize Asia winners from Hong Kong, ffiXXed.
See more from the Woolmark Prize here.