He’s already taken the Australian fashion industry by storm—his solo debut in 2012 was arguably the most buzzed-about show of Australian Fashion Week—and now Christopher Esber’s next move is world domination.
“I don’t have a formula [for the creative process], I don’t go by a set rule each season.”Christopher Esber
On a winter’s afternoon balmy enough to pass for summer in many parts of the planet, Esber was announced as the winner of the Australian regional 2013/14 International Woolmark Prize (IWP). The young designer is bound for the IWP finals in Milan in February 2014, the first step in an ambition to take his aesthetic to a global audience.
New York-based photographer and blogger Scott Schuman, aka The Sartorialist, visited Sydney as a regional judge for the award, which aims to unearth the best design talent from every corner of the earth.
“The thing that always attracts me is the almost naïve passion [young designers] have for what they do,” says Schuman. In the lead up to announcing the winner of the $50,000 regional award, Schuman took on a mentor role, meeting with each of the eight finalists. His advice? For emerging talent to discover not why they fit into the fashion industry but “what makes them special—why they deserve to have people look at their work.”
For Esber, adopting wool product innovations for his deconstructed suits enthralled Schuman and fellow judges Kellie Hush, editor-in-chief Harper’s BAZAAR; Edwina McCann, editor-in-chief Vogue Australia; Simon Lock, CEO, The Lock Group; and Sophie Clark, general manager womenswear at department store David Jones.
“The nominees did an amazing job of using old-school techniques of tailoring and knitting, and marrying them with new technologies pointing a new direction for wool,” Schuman said. “Wool can be a fabric that is not just something that we have lived in all our lives but something that is going to be very important in the future,” Schuman said.
“For me, it’s really important to have my hand throughout everything, [otherwise] there’s a sense of soul that gets lost.”- Christopher Esber
The road to Milan—competing against four other regional finalists for the ultimate AUD$100,000 prize—is a long one for Esber. He has just months to design and construct a capsule collection made entirely of Merino wool.
The winning collection will be stocked in the world’s most prestigious retailers including Harvey Nichols (London), Saks Fifth Avenue (New York), 10 Corso Como (Milan), Joyce (China), David Jones (Australia), My Theresa (Germany) and online.
With the 2013/14 competition expanding into the Asia and Middle East region, the IWP is a truly global search for fresh design talent and, for Esber, an opportunity to showcase his work to the world.
“I’ve always wanted to be an international designer, relevant across the globe,” he says. “This is the first step in making those dreams come true.”
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