You’ve got to feel for an emerging designer presenting their vision to a judging panel made up of the likes of Calvin Klein’s Francisco Costa and award-winning menswear designer John Varvatos. It can’t be an easy job. But the fashion labels that stepped up to the challenge at the judging of the USA International Woolmark Prize had some tricks up their sleeve.
The chance to represent America against designers from five other regions on the global stage next year had drawn ten of the most promising talents working in the industry today. Perhaps it helped to know that the menswear and womenswear winners of the 2015 global prize, Public School and M.Patmos, had both hailed from the US. Whatever the motivation, the nominees showed some of the most innovative manipulations in wool.
After much deliberation it was decided between Costa and co. that Siki Im would be the designer to go through to the menswear finals at Pitti Uomo in January. German-born Im worked with modified Australian Merino wool to craft his prize-winning look comprising an imaginatively cut pinstripe suit layered over wool jersey, enhancing the fibre's core characteristics such as multi-climate functionality, durability and waterproof coatings for the modern globetrotting man.
“The International Woolmark Prize is all about innovation. Siki is an out-of-the-box thinker. He doesn’t walk the same path as everyone else and he truly understands the functionality and potential of Merino wool,” said Varvatos.
New York City-based Tanya Taylor was announced as the finalist to continue on to the womenswear competition being held on her own turf in February. Taylor's colourful submission proved testament to the Canadian-born designer's signature youthful polish and optimistic prints. Inspired by the concentric circles of a bullseye, her feature outfit plays on the contrast between sharp and soft, employing rib knits and double faced Merino wool finished with rubberised printing.
Costa announced Taylor's award, commenting on the upbeat creativity of her work. “It was free-spirited, happy and playful. I especially loved the prints and the variety of knits.”
The AU$50,000 cash prize both labels receive will help them on their way to developing their final Merino wool capsule collections over the coming six months. A further AU$100,000 and chance to be stocked in some of the world’s most prestigious boutiques, including USA’s own Saks Fifth Avenue, awaits the winners of the final round.
We go behind the scenes at the International Woolmark Prize Shanghai
Against a picture-perfect Sydney Harbour backdrop, P.Johnson and Bianca Spender take home the award