H&M Design Award 2020

ENFNTSTERRIBLES

29 Nov
Fashion

We Mingled at the H&M Design Award in Berlin and This Is the Result

Yesterday, the 9th edition of the H&M Design Award took place in Berlin. It’s an annual price to support graduating students as they begin their careers in fashion. Out of the ten finalists, Antwerp graduate Sabine Skarule was chosen as the final winner by the jury with her collection ‘+371’. We were at the presentation to have a little chat with her and H&M’s creative advisor Ann-Sofie Johansson.

Ann-Sofie Johansson told us that more than 500 graduates from 42 fashion schools in 17 countries sent their application for this year’s design award. Out of this group, they selected ten finalists who were invited in Berlin to present their collection to a panel of experts of which Véronique Tristam (Glamour Germany’s fashion director) and Ann-Sofie herself, amongst others, were a part of.

All the finalists showed a very strong collection and as Ann-Sofie quoted “they are all winners”. However, one had to be chosen to receive the prestigious award and that became Sabine Skarule, a 30-year-old designer from Latvia who graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp last June.

It was the story behind the collection and modern spin on traditional handcraft that made the jury decide to choose for Sabine’s collection. Ann-Sofie said that from the beginning they were very intrigued and curious to see more from her. The collection felt very complete.

H&M Design Award 2020

+371 - Sabine Skarule

H&M Design Award 2020

Ann-Sofie Johansson and Sabine Skarule

+371 by Sabine Skarule

Sabine Skarule’s collection came into being thanks to feelings of nostalgia and a search for something new. Before she started her Master’s year at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Sabine decided to do an internship at The Row in New York. This is when she started to look back at her roots. Being in the metropolis made her want to slow down, daydream and remember where it all started.

“Why did I get so excited about fashion?” was one of the questions that popped up. Sabine told us that back in the day, they couldn’t buy garments at the store so they made everything themselves by hand. She clearly remembers her mom sitting behind the knitting machine to make sure the family was provided with clothing.

Her Master collection became a very personal creation, an interaction between her Latvian roots and search for innovation. Ethnical costumes were reinterpreted and materials mixed while keeping the balance between old and new. In order to create the collection, she traveled back and forth between Belgium and Latvia where she worked with local craftsmen and seamstresses.

For those who wondered where the title of the collection comes from, it’s the international calling code in front of Latvian phone numbers. During her time abroad Sabine was very often on the phone with her mom and other relatives. The +371 literally made sure she stayed in touch with her roots.

Together with the honor of receiving an H&M Design Award comes a sum of €50.000. Usually, we don’t tend to ask about people’s spending habits, but this time it was inevitable. Sabine didn’t have to think long about an answer since she has a clear goal in mind from the start. The money will be used to produce and launch next season’s collection. To say it in her own words “I’m planning to go to Paris, to work on my brand’s identity and to make things happen.”

The H&M award came to her exactly at the right time. Sabine mentioned she likes to do things her own way so working with investors isn’t an ideal solution. Also, designing for a big fashion house isn’t what she aims for. Her secret is to always listen to her inner voice. At the end of our talk, she told us about a picture of her as a little girl with her grandmother. When she’s in doubt she asks her younger self what she’d do in order to get a pure and innocent answer.

H&M Design Award 2020

Sabine Skarule

H&M Design Award 2020

Sabine Skarule

They are all winners

As Ann-Sofie Johansson beautifully mentioned, all the finalists are winners. Sabine Skarule might go home with the grand prize, but the nine others each get €5000 to invest in their collections.

Next to Sabine, there were two other graduates from the Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts amongst the finalists: Shuting Qiu and Quinten Mestdagh. It was no doubt an extremely fruitful year in the fashion department of our hometown.

The seven other talented international finalists were Constance Blackaller (Central Saint Martins; London), Hadar Shevach (Shenkar; Tel Aviv), Liris Kamari (Aalto; Finland), Jon Allensten (Beckmans College of Design; Stockholm), Laura Gerte (Weißensee Kunsthochschule; Berlin), Meg Calloway (Parsons; New York) and Milka Seppänen (Aalto; Finland). 

Besides their totally different collections, there was an interest in the craft that unified this year’s finalists, according to Ann-Sofie Johansson. The designers were very keen to explore the craft, fabrics, details and pattern making. Another evolution compared to previous editions is that sustainability has become more and more important. Even though it’s not always possible for students to be completely sustainable, everyone is making an effort.

Lastly, we asked Ann-Sofie about her best advice for next year’s applicants and future designers. She ended with the beautiful words “Whatever you do, do it with passion. Follow your heart and vision. Also, be nice to people. You never know when you’ll meet someone again.”

H&M Design Award 2020

I am rooted by i flow - Shuting Qiu

H&M Design Award 2020

Shuting Qiu and jury

H&M Design Award 2020

Shuting Qiu

H&M Design Award 2020

Group picture of the jury and finalists

H&M Design Award 2020

Default by bliss - Quinten Mestdagh

H&M Design Award 2020

Default by bliss - Quinten Mestdagh

H&M Design Award 2020

Meg Calloway

H&M Design Award 2020

Hadar Shevach

H&M Design Award 2020

Liris Kamari

H&M Design Award 2020

Constance Blackaller

H&M Design Award 2020

Laure Gerte

H&M Design Award 2020

Jon Allensten

H&M Design Award 2020

Milka Seppänen

Photo credits: Meghan Wright for H&M, Reinis Hofmanis (lookbook Sabine Skarule), Ronald Stoops (lookbook Shuting Qiu and Quinten Mestdagh)

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