TOPMAN Creative Director, Gordon Richardson; Fashion Designer, Roksanda Ilincic; Dylan Jones, OBE, Editor British GQ; Emily Sheffield, Deputy Editor, British Vogue; Anita Barr, Group Fashion Buying Director, Harvey Nichols; Simon Chilvers, Men’s Style Director, MATCHESFASHION.COM; and Bridget Cosgrave, Fashion and Buying Director, Boutique 1 Group selected the winners at an awards event held at the Australian High Commission in London.
“Both winners displayed an innate understanding of the fibre, a keen commercial sensibility and a great design aesthetic,” commented Dylan Jones. “They both appear to have the ability to turn their designs and Merino wool into successful retail collections.”
Ben Cottrell and Matthew Dainty, the designers behind the brand COTTWEILER, presented a forward-thinking design and worked with an Italian mill that specialises in technical, high performance sportswear to create their winning menswear look. “COTTWEILER are a young brand but they understand what's happening in menswear now,” explained Gordon Richardson. “They have youthful content and were very clever with how they transformed wool in the sportswear arena. That's something you don't usually see and the collection was something you want to wear right now. That’s the real skill of a designer - they are definitely in the moment.”
“It’s a real honour for us to be able to take our classic look and reimagine it for the prize,” the COTTWEILER designers commented. “The technical properties of the natural Merino wool allow the garment to be windproof, waterproof and breathable – and all of this in the COTTWEILER style.”
For her winning womenswear outfit, Faustine Steinmetz worked with the raw Merino wool fibre, carding and dyeing it in different shades of indigo before felting it onto a Merino base fabric. “Faustine showed incredible creativity and an almost couture-like technique with her approach to the look and the wool fibre,” commented Roksanda Ilincic. “There was scalability from something that was more artistic and experimental to something that is commercial, which was one of the great points of her collection.”
“It feels so startling to have won and I’m really happy,” said Faustine. “Wool is the most versatile material and I’m excited to develop this collection for the international final.”
Chosen from amongst the most promising fashion design talents from the British Isles, both winners gain a financial contribution of AU$50,000 (approximately £28,6171), plus the opportunity to represent the British Isles and compete in the prestigious international final. In addition, each winner will receive mentoring support from a global panel of experts along with being granted a Woolmark licence.
For the next six months, the winning designers will be required to develop a capsule collection in Merino wool, to be showcased at one of two extraordinary events that will highlight the six menswear finalists and six womenswear finalists selected from across the globe. The final for menswear will be held on schedule during London Collections Men and the womenswear final will be held in Paris, both in January 2017.
The winners of the menswear and womenswear global finals will receive a further AU$100,000 (approximately £57,2341) to assist with fabric sourcing and marketing of their collection, as well as mentoring from industry experts. In addition, both international winners will have the opportunity to have their collection distributed through the prize's prestigious international retail partner network including Harvey Nichols in the UK, David Jones in Australia, Boutique 1 in the UAE, Verso in Belgium, LECLAIREUR in Paris, Boon the Shop in South Korea, The Papilion in Indonesia and online through mytheresa.com (womenswear) and MATCHESFASHION.COM (menswear).
The Woolmark Company is pleased to have the support of Wine Australia as the official drinks partner, along with Johnstons of Elgin, TONI&GUY and makeup by MAC for the 2016/17 British Isles International Woolmark Prize.
1 Based on exchange rate at time of announcement
Photos: Jason Lloyd-Evans.