A century of wool

10 key dates which shaped the history of wool


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From an avant-garde Gabrielle Chanel, to a young Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent bursting onto the scene, Merino wool remains a dynamic force on the fashion stage. Here, we look back at 10 key moments that redefined the way we think of wool..

From left to right: 1916, 1947, 1954

1916: Upcoming French designer Gabrielle Chanel discovers an experimental collection of machine-made knitted wool called jersey created by textile manufacturer Rodier. Originally designed for men’ underwear, the fabric marks a turning point in fashion, allowing Chanel to create clothes that are comfortable, flexible and chic, giving birth to a new androgynous style.

1947: The end of WWII heralds another fashion revolution called ‘The New Look’. Launched by the House of Christian Dior, the fashion uses excessive amounts of fabric as a backlash against the rations and shortages of the war years.

1954: Young designer Yves Saint Laurent, at just 18 years old, wins first and third prize in the dress category of the International Wool Secretariat competition, the precursor to today’s International Woolmark Prize. At the same awards, a 21-year-old Karl Lagerfeld wins first prize in the coat category. The following year Yves Saint Laurent is named head designer at Dior, and Lagerfeld goes to work for designer Pierre Balmain.

From left to right: 1964, 1988, 2008

1964: An international identity for wool is created to increase consumer confidence and represent quality standards. Italian graphic artist Francesco Saroglia creates the Woolmark logo for the International Wool Secretariat. It is launched in Britain, the US, Japan, Holland and Belgium.

1988: World-famous designers create outfits made from Australian Merino wool for the Australian Bicentennial Wool Collection presented at the Sydney Opera House on January 31. International names taking part include Claude Montana, Sonia Rykiel, Oscar de la Renta, Donna Karan, Kenzo Takada, Gianni Versace and Missoni.

2008: The Woolmark Company connects the world’s best designers, including Karl Lagerfeld, Donatella Versace and Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein, with emerging designers of their choice for the Protégé project. The collections show in Florence in January and then at Australian Fashion Week in May.

From left to right: 2010, 2012, 2015

2010: London’s Savile Row is transformed into a pasture complete with green grass and grazing sheep for the launch of Campaign For Wool, supported by The Woolmark Company.

2012: The launch of the International Woolmark Prize gives 52 nominees from around the world the opportunity to be recognised by a global panel of experts with the final prize awarding the most notable designer with commercialisation in the world’s top boutiques.

2012: The Woolmark Company partners with Vivienne Westwood for the designer’s autumn/winter 2012/13 Gold Label collection at the prestigious Cité de la Mode et du Design in Paris. The following year, photographer Annie Leibovitz photographs designer Alexander Wang for The Woolmark Company’s Merino Wool, No Finer Feeling campaign.

2015: The International Woolmark Prize womenswear final heads to Beijing in celebration of the year of the sheep. Designer Victoria Beckham joins a prestigious judging panel to announce the winner of a search spanning 21 countries and involving more than 60 designers.

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