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Vmajor, Sise Win Asia's Woolmark Prize

China’s Vmajor and Japan’s Sise won the International Woolmark Prize Asia competition in the award’s last regional showdown.

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TOKYO — China’s Vmajor and Japan’s Sise won the International Woolmark Prize Asia competition in the award’s last regional showdown ahead of the final competition next year.

Vmajor, designed by Victor Zhu and Nicole Lin, nabbed top honors in the women’s category for a look featuring a brocade top and a long, knit skirt resembling a sweater tied around the waist. Sise, designed by Seishin Matsui, won in the men’s category, turning out tapered pants in forest green and a pair of jackets worn in layers.

Each brand will receive 50,000 Australian dollars, or $46,771 at current exchange, to further develop its business. They will represent Asia at the Woolmark finals next year. The men’s final will take place in London in January and the women’s in Beijing in March.

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Designer Thakoon Panichgul, one of this year’s judges, said it was a close call in the women’s competition but the judges were “more unanimous” in terms of the men’s category.

Panichgul said overall he was impressed with the precision and quality of the garments he saw, particularly in the men’s wear, but the decision really came down to whether the designers had an understanding of business, global trends and consumers’ needs.

“A lot of the competitors had interesting, creative ideas, interesting technique on using wool, but ultimately I think what it came down to was, you know, is this something that has longevity and is this something that can be interpreted globally?” he said.

Angelica Cheung, editor in chief of Vogue China, has been a Woolmark judge for three years and said she felt the overall quality level of this year’s competition was better than past years. She said the winning designers managed to find creative uses for wool but also stayed true to their own design ethos.

Echoing Panichgul’s sentiments, Cheung said the judges valued creativity and originality but also needed to think about how easy it would be to market or manufacture the winning designs.

“We’re not talking about haute couture here. We’re talking about clothes that can be reached out to a lot of people,” she said.

Vmajor’s Zhu and Lin met each other while interning at Vivienne Westwood. Their business is based in Shenzhen, China’s textile capital. The brand presented its spring 2013 collection at London Fashion Week.

Sise’s Matsui is a graduate of Tokyo’s prestigious Bunka Fashion College. He has shown his collection at Japan Fashion Week since fall 2010.

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