Woolmark has announced the winners of its 2016/17 Woolmark Prize.
Monday morning at the Palais de Tokyo Paris, womenswear designer Gabriela Hearst and menswear designers Ben Cottrell and Matthew Dainty of Cottweiler took home the Woolmark AU$100,000 ($75,790 at current exchange) prize.
The designers will also have the chance to have their capsule collections in Merino wool commercialized and sold in the top boutiques and department stores all over the world. 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.
With the launch of her label in 2015, Hearst said she wanted to create a brand that reflected a slower pace and process where things are made with care and detail, where tradition is more important than trend, where there is a purpose to every piece. Her focus is combining the utilitarian and the beautiful, designing long-lasting garments that hold memories for the woman who wears them.
Wool has always been an integral part of her life and knitwear is the cornerstone of the brand. For her Fall 2016 collection, Hearst partnered with a women’s non-profit, Manos del Uruguay. The tweed pieces are handmade by local craftswomen with Merino wool that holds a personal connection to the designer because it was sourced from her family’s farm in Uruguay.
“In terms of creativity, passion, sustainability, and commerciality, Gabriela really ticked all the boxes,” jury member Nathalie Massenet, chair of the British Fashion Council, said in a statement. “She grew up on a Merino-producing ranch, so she already loved the material, and she produced a collection with huge potential in terms of reaching her audience. The superfine, almost translucent Merino she pioneered as a layering piece shows real thought. Hers can sit alongside the top collections in the world.”
Having met at Bristol University, where they graduated in 2006, Cottrell went on to work for Savile Row tailor Ozwald Boateng, and Dainty for British designer Kim Jones. In 2008, they began to rent a work studio together, forming the beginnings of what has evolved to become the Cottweiler brand.
“We were very anti-branding,” the designers said at prize’s global finals. “Having also worked for other brands where branding was a real focus, we wanted to do something that was recognisable through silhouette or quality. We knew that was something that would take a long time for people to recognise but we felt it added value to what we were doing. As we developed, we started taking a more elegant approach to things, trying to fuse the aggression with a softer approach.”
In 1953, the prestigious International Woolmark Prize was launched honoring the two most talented emerging womenswear designers at the time, Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent.
The prize celebrated outstanding individuals from around the world who showcase their talents in the beauty and versatility of Merino wool. It has spotlighted emerging fashion designers from different cultures and over 60 countries.
Today, the regional awards are held in six regions — Asia, Australia and New Zealand, British Isles, Europe, India, Pakistan and Middle East and the U.S. Each regional winner has the opportunity to compete in the global finals, held during major fashion weeks across the world. The top global menswear and womenswear winners receive a monetary prize in addition to the chance to become a part of the International Woolmark Prize’s extensive retail partner network.
The designers’ collections were reviewed by a panel of judges to determine who is the best of the best for each category. Some of the womenswear judges this year included fashion designers Victoria Beckham and Bouchra Jarrar, creative director at Lanvin and Miroslava Duma, the founder and CEO of Fashion Tech Labs and co-founder of Buro 24/7.