For those that don’t know me I am Australian. I grew up in rural Australia in a place called East Gippsland, Victoria Orbost. I grew up on a beef farm but my friends were serious sheep farmers. I have seen wool in its natural form and over the years did and do wonder, how one could market tonnes of wool in 2016. You can read more about my interviews with Woolmark here over the last two years.

So I flew from Barcelona to see where Woolmark and wool itself is heading. The only time I visit The Australian Embassy is to pick up passports. So it was nice to experience another side of this beautiful building. I have always supported up and coming designers as like me they are building a brand too.  It was great to see these designers capturing the very essence of how wool can be worn in 2016. The following images and videos were taken on my mobile phone.

About The Woolmark Company

The Woolmark Company is the global authority on wool. Through our extensive network of relationships spanning the international textile and fashion industries, we highlight Australian wool’s position as the ultimate natural fibre and premier ingredient in luxury apparel. The Woolmark logo is one of the world’s most recognised and respected brands, providing assurance of the highest quality, and representing pioneering excellence and innovation from farm through to finished product. The Woolmark Company is a subsidiary of Australian Wool Innovation, a not-for-profit enterprise owned by more than 24,000 woolgrowers that invests in research, development and marketing along the worldwide supply chain for Australian wool.

Both Winners Gain a Financial Contribution

I am amazed at the financial backing Woolmark gives to these young designers. Fashion is a tough industry and only designing clothes now won’t make you successful. You have to understand the business side of fashion. So well done to both winners who 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. This is priceless in itself and money can’t measure having input from those gone before them within the industry.

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 throughmytheresa.com ( womenswear) and MATCHESFASHION.COM ( menswear).

What Happens Now?

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 women’s wear final will be held in Paris, both in January 2017.

COTTWEILER

Being the female voice for menswear it seemed only right to  meet the winners for menswear, Ben Cottrell and Matthew Dainty. Listen to what they have to say about this special occasion. Theses two designers, 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 do 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.”

 

Faustine Steinmetz

It was great to see Faustine Steinmetz who won the womenswear. Faustine 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.”

 

TOPMAN Creative Director, Gordon Richardson

It is the first time I have met Gordon and it only seemed right to understand the process of how they choose the winners. he was one of the judges for this special occasion. Also listen to what he thinks about menswear in 2016

“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.

Lifestyle

The Woolmark Company is pleased to have the support of Wine Australia as the official drinks partner, along with Johnstons of Elgin. The wines tasted really good and of course the one from my state in which I grew up Victoria was special to me.  Also a huge thanks to Nicky Clarke situated in Mayfair. sorting my hair out for this very special occasion.

Proud To Be Australian

I never imaged in 2016 being in London and experiencing wool as I did during these awards. I understand how hard it is as farmers to take care of such interesting animals to then produce such fine wool.  I always loved watching one sheep dog in action rounding up to 1000 sheep for the sheering process, a must see for those heading down-under.  Thanks to Woolmark we can now see a new revolution when it comes to wool design. Let’s see how these young designers will trend wool in the next coming year.

It’s been five years since I have been home to Australia. Not sure when I will get down-under but keep watching this ozzie battler for MenStyleFashion.

For now I can say, I am proud to be Australian.

Gracie-Opulanza-Zurich-2016-MenStylefashion

Me In Zurich for MenStyleFashion Street Style 2 days ago