Not quite two weeks ago, Antwerp-based designer Christian Wijnants took home the ultra-prestigious International Woolmark Prize, an award that counts Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld among its winners. In some ways, Wijnants was a surprising choice—he's anything but a showy designer. But as today's collection proved, a great deal of thought, and not a little poetry, goes into the making of his clothes. Wijnants opened with two knit wool looks that undoubtedly helped land him the Woolmark Prize: a loose cardigan and a funnel-neck sweater, both featuring an intriguing circular knit and the incorporation of varied knit gauges. That's technical stuff, but the sculptural effect transcended the technique. Wijnants repeated those looks, or elaborations of them, throughout this collection; some of the punchiest pieces found him shibori-dying funnel-neck dresses and coat-length cardigans, to graphic effect.
Those knit pieces weren't the only standouts on Wijnants' runway. The designer's silk-fringed coats and jackets had a similarly expressive quality, and everything in his mottled black and white jacquard was a winner, in particular a cocoon-ish coat with cropped sleeves. The jacquard, Wijnants explained after the show, was meant to conjure the craggy look of melting snow; likewise, the well-judged bursts of color here were inspired, he said, by the experience of engaging with nature's own surprising palette while out mountain climbing. That point of view came through most clearly in the serenity of the collection—there was a sense of ease, and a sense of space. The only quibbles were Wijnants' emphasis on shorts that felt a little too summery, and more generally, his reluctance to give a really defined silhouette to the pieces that weren't knit. Overall, though, these clothes were compelling and fresh.