British label COTTWEILER and New York-based designer Gabriela Hearst were today announced the menswear and womenswear winners of the 2016/17 International Woolmark Prize presented at a special event at the iconic Palais de Tokyo, Paris. The return of the International Woolmark Prize to Paris nods to the original awards, initiated by the International Wool Secretariat in 1953. This year also marks the first time the menswear and womenswear awards have been held together as one prestigious event.
More than 75 designers from more than 60 countries were nominated for this year’s award, with finalists representing six different regions around the world. As the judges remarked following their review of the collections, the level of on show at this year’s global final set a high bar, with designers demonstrating unique approaches to contemporary fashion design using one of the world’s finest natural fibres: Australian Merino wool. Later, as the sun set over Paris, guests – including some of the world’s most respected fashion editors and identities, including illustrator Vincent Moustache and bloggers Bryan Boy, Chriselle Lim and Carin Olsson (Paris in Four Months) – witnessed an entrancing live installation set within the art gallery, and toasted glasses of Australian wine to celebrate the winners.
“Knitwear is not what you’d associate with our brand,” admits Matthew Dainty, one half, alongside Ben Cottrell, of COTTWEILER. “So we wanted to create something that had the appearance of what we do, but the properties of the Merino wool brief that we were given.” In what amounts to a sophisticated performance layering system, COTTWEILER’s winning International Woolmark Prize collection comprises sheer Merino wool base-layers, windproof mid-layers and quilted waterproof outerwear, with wool-blend fabrics ranging from 18.5 microns through to 19.5 microns, and recycled wool scraps used for insulation. The resultant collection brings COTTWEILER’s brand of fetish-infused cult and tribe codes into the world of wool, with utilitarian detailing – padded hoods, detachable cargo pockets, running caps, and elasticised hems and cuffs, for example – at its core.
The menswear award was judged by a highly esteemed panel, including: Imran Amed, Founder and CEO, The Business of Fashion; Rami Atallah, Co-founder and CEO, ssense.com; Jefferson Hack, CEO and Co-Founder, Dazed Media; Michael Hadida, Director of Development and Men's buyer, LECLAIREUR; Olivier Lalanne, Deputy Editor, Vogue Paris, Editor in Chief, Vogue Hommes; Michèle Lamy, Owenscorp Partner; Benn McGregor, Senior Buyer Menswear, Harvey Nichols; Nelson Mui, VP, Men’s Fashion Director, Hudson’s Bay Company; Shayne Oliver, Creative Director, Hood By Air; Fabrizio Servente, Global Strategy Advisor, The Woolmark Company; Takehiko Suzuki, General Manager Men's & Sports Wear, Isetan Mitsukoshi; Stefano Tonchi, Editor-in-Chief, W magazine.
“COTTWEILER is working with wool in a highly original way that mixes sports, tailoring, streetwear and fashion, and I think that represents a new dimension in menswear,” said Jefferson Hack, the CEO and Co-Founder of Dazed Media, after the judging session. Shayne Oliver, the Creative Director of Hood By Air, agreed, adding: “COTTWEILER doesn’t want to show off and are very relaxed and confident in themselves and what they show. They know where to go with this funding and it will give them the push to get to the level they deserve to be at.”
Uruguay-born, New York-based designer Gabriela Hearst believes in the traditional values of quality – values which were instilled at a young age by her parents. Hearst grew up on a sheep farm in Uruguay, a world away from the fashion capitals, and it wasn’t until her father passed away that she married her passion for the farm with her love for fashion. Hearst’s International Woolmark Prize collection presents sleek silhouettes with updates on trench coats, pleats and an evening dress teamed with the more utilitarian baseball jacket with adjoining scarf, one-piece long johns, reversible puffer vest and cycling trousers. Microns range from the ultrafine 14.5 microns for knitwear though to 21.5 microns, offering a wool-velvet fabrication.
“I want to show the ultra-luxury side of wool. People tend to think of wool as their grandmother’s hand-knit sweater, but it’s such an amazing fabric with immense qualities,” she said. Hearst’s muse for her final collection was WWII Italian journalist, author, and political interviewer Oriana Fallaci. “She interviewed the most dangerous men on the planet,” Hearst said of the late Fallaci. “She was not afraid of asking the hard questions, and she has so many qualities that I admire in a woman – she was tough and fearless. But underneath the toughness is always a sensitive human being.”
The womenswear award was judged by a highly esteemed panel, including: Christiane Arp, Editor in Chief, Vogue Germany; Anita Barr, Group Fashion Buying Director, Harvey Nichols; Victoria Beckham, Fashion Designer; Damian Burke, General Manager Womenswear, David Jones; Lou Doillon, Songwriter / Actress; Miroslava Duma, CEO and founder, Fashion Tech Labs and Buro 24/7; Julie Gilhart, Fashion Consultant; Joanna Gunn, Chief Brand Officer, Lane Crawford; Tiffany Hsu, Buying Manager Ready-to-Wear, mytheresa.com; Bouchra Jarrar, Creative Director, Lanvin; Suzanne Koller, Contributing Editor, Vogue Paris; Dame Natalie Massenet DBE, Chair of British Fashion Council; Stuart McCullough, Managing Director, The Woolmark Company; Virginie Mouzat, Fashion and Lifestyle Editor in Chief, Vanity Fair; Suzanne Timmins, Senior Vice President and Fashion Director, Hudson’s Bay Company; Lena Jabbour Matta, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Boutique 1 Group; and Elizabeth Von Guttman, Founder, System magazine.
"The International Woolmark Prize gives a huge opportunity to young designers globally," explains Victoria Beckham. "It shows how much you can do with wool and what you can do as a designer. "I was very supportive of today's winner, for me there was no doubt. I love what Gabriela does and she's very talented. I like her eye, she has great product and she's a strong woman. I have a huge amount of respect for her and she's going to do great things; I'm proud and honoured to get involved in this and help make this possible for her."
British Fashion Council Chair Dame Natalie Massenet DBE echoes this sentiment, saying: “We picked Gabriela because we thought she struck a chord on every level: a passion for wool, its history, and the varied uses of wool,” said “I learned a lot hearing her talking about the processes and the fact wool doesn’t wrinkle. She did a very good job of showing high-low, from evening gowns through to trench coats and pant suits and we feel that she will have an enormous future and will be great spokesperson for wool.”
Both winners will now receive AU$100,000 to help support the development of their business. They will also receive ongoing industry mentor support, Woolmark certification for their winning collection and the opportunity to be stocked in some of the world’s most prestigious department stores and boutiques. These include Boutique 1, Boon the Shop, David Jones, Harvey Nichols, Hudson’s Bay Company, Isetan, Lane Crawford, LECLAIREUR, mytheresa.com, The Papilion and ssense.com. All finalists’ collections will also become available for wholesale purchase via Ordre.com.
The Woolmark Company is pleased to have the support of Wine Australia as the official drinks partner, The Westin Paris - Vendôme, along with TONI&GUY, makeup by MAC and health and wellness brand Potion for the 2016/17 International Woolmark Prize global final.