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Blair Archibald from Australia and Harman Grubiša from New Zealand were announced as the menswear and womenswear winners, respectively, of the 2017/18 International Woolmark Prize Australia and New Zealand regional final, at an awards event held in Sydney.

The International Woolmark Prize aims to increase the global demand for Australian Merino wool, by promoting the versatility of the fibre and aligning young talent with commercial opportunities and ongoing mentorship from industry heavyweights. It remains AWI’s most successful marketing strategy and provides design talent across the globe with the opportunity to be stocked in the world’s most influential retailers.

New demand is generated not only from the loyalty to wool from the designers, but also from consumers who are experiencing the immediate presence of Woolmark-branded apparel in the world’s best boutique and online retailers, with 1000 new wool-rich pieces from the two winners made available to the retail partners.

A panel comprising Gabriela Hearst – Fashion Designer, 2016/17 International Woolmark Prize womenswear winner; Kellie Hush – Editor in Chief, Harper’s Bazaar Australia; Damian Burke – General Manager Womenswear, David Jones; Nicole Warne – Founder, Garry Pepper Girl; Jeremy Hershan – Head of Design, R.M. Williams; Kim Payne – Fashion Director, Men’s Style; and Stuart McCullough – Managing Director, The Woolmark Company selected BLAIRARCHIBALD and Harman Grubiša as the winners.

“I think the International Woolmark Prize is a fantastic initiative to be able to support emerging designers and provide financial support, mentorship and expansion in retail stores,” explained Nicole Warne. “It’s going to help the winners with global expansion in every way. I think it is the most prestigious award you could win and being Australian I feel very connected and very proud of what Woolmark stands for.”

“The work of Blair Archibald was very well considered, in terms of its aesthetic, functionality and provenance,” said Jeremy Hershan. “I think the concept of mixing new innovation – mixing Merino wool with military – was a great nod to sustainability and was a nice angle. In terms of a full head-to-toe look it was very well-rounded and there was commercial appeal.”

Incorporating an old Army blanket and recycled wool fabric into his winning coat, Blair Archibald was able to uphold the sustainable practices which lie at the heart of his label to produce trousers made from 17.5 micron and a turtleneck which uses 21 micron.

“It’s completely gratifying to be part of something that’s so innovating in itself,” said Blair Archibald. “It’s my job as a designer to be really informative and educational with my clients and the public. To be able to win something like this means I can continue with sustainable practices and be really proud to be an Australian-made brand.”

Praised for its versatility – the 16 micron wool dress transforms into a clutch – Harman Grubiša was inspired by the urban nomad, with the winning look satisfying the needs of the Harman Grubiša woman.

“It’s a real honour to even be nominated and included and we just feel extremely privileged that Woolmark exists,” said Madeleine Harman and Jessica Grubiša. “It encourages designers to think about the material they use and to be part of that journey is so wonderful.”

“I think Harman Grubiša are very entrepreneurial and very driven,” said Gabriela Hearst. “They have commercial viability and are creatively there. I think this is a great opportunity for them to expand.”

Chosen from amongst the most promising fashion design talents from Australia and New Zealand, both winners gain a financial contribution of AU$70,000, plus the opportunity to 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.

For the next six-to-seven months, the winning designers will be required to develop a capsule collection in Merino wool, to be showcased at an extraordinary event that will highlight the six menswear finalists and six womenswear finalists selected from across the globe.

The winners of the menswear and womenswear global finals will receive a further AU$200,000 to assist with fabric sourcing and marketing of their collection, as well as mentoring from industry experts. A third winner will also be selected at the global final as part of the newly introduced Innovation Award. In addition, the international winners will have the opportunity to have their collection distributed through the prize’s prestigious international retail partner network including Boon the Shop, S. Korea; Boutique 1, UAE; David Jones, Australia; De Bijenkorf, Amsterdam; Harvey Nichols, UK; Hudson’s Bay Company, Toronto; LECLAIREUR, Paris;; ORDRE; and SSENSE.COM.

The highly anticipated capsule collection that won Gabriela Hearst the 2016/17 International Woolmark Prize is now available to buy in David Jones’ Sydney City store. Using ultrafine 14.5 micron Merino wool for luxurious knitwear, through to 21.5 micron wool to create a wool-velvet fabrication, Hearst was praised by the judges for her technical innovation and quality craftsmanship.

Source: AWI

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