Australian Merino wool on world’s fashion stage

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Cally DupeCountryman
The Woolmark Prize menswear and innovation winner Edward Crutchley, with the womenswear winners Nicole and Michael Colovos.
Camera IconThe Woolmark Prize menswear and innovation winner Edward Crutchley, with the womenswear winners Nicole and Michael Colovos. Credit: The Woolmark Company

A trio of designers have taken out the world’s three most prestigious wool fashion prizes with collections featuring 100 per cent Australian Merino wool.

Among a frantic London Fashion Week schedule, Australian Wool Innovation marketing arm The Woolmark Company attracted one of the most star-studded front rows.

Guests, including film actor Colin Firth, watched dozens of models showcase collections by 12 finalists in The Internaitonal Woolmark Prize.

Launched in 1953, the competition is one of the world’s most prestigious awards for emerging design talent.

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Finalists had a simple task — present collections using 100 per cent Australian Merino wool.

Winners took home a hefty cash prize in three categories — $200,000 for menswear and womenswear, and $100,000 for innovation.

British-born Edward Crutchley scooped the mens-wear and innovation category.

His collection explored global cultural references, including an 18th Century frock coat and a grungy tie-dyed college knit.

American husband-and-wife duo Colovos took out the womenswear prize with their collection of tailored coats, pants and skirts made of wool.

The pair, Michael and Nicole Colovos, spruiked their line as being completely traceable, washable and colour-and-shrink proof.

“Our goal was to create a luxury, modern collection with a fully sustainable proposition,” Mr Colovos said.

“We are committed to principles of zero waste in manufacturing, so all production waste and end-of-life garments will be recycled to create new fabrics.

“This process that uses steam, heat and citrus to break down the fabric waste and create a new fibre to be spun into fully recyclable yarns.”

Not only do the winners take home a cash prize, but their collection gets picked up by a Woolmark retail partner and they receive business mentorship.

Among the finalists was one of Australia’s most in-demand stylists Marina Afonina, whose design name is Albus Lumen.

The Sydney-based designer, who hoped to be the first Australian to win the prize, debuted an all-white collection of wool-made resort wear.

The Woolmark Company spends about $4 million on the prize each year.

It aims to boost the career of an emerging designer and take Australian wool to new markets. AWI managing director Stuart McCullough said the designers’ talent was “exceptional”.

“The International Woolmark Prize is an award for the future leaders of the industry,” he said.

“An industry which is rapidly changing to meet the demands of a changing consumer, climate and resource availability.

“Each designer pushed the limits of the fibre, their design and the manufacturers they worked with.”

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