Trifecta for St Hilda’s as girls scoop wool contest

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St Hilda's students Mia Wilson, 15, Varna Shetty, 15, and Ashley Eldon, 15, with their designs.
Camera IconSt Hilda's students Mia Wilson, 15, Varna Shetty, 15, and Ashley Eldon, 15, with their designs. Credit: David Baylis

A trio of St Hilda’s schoolgirls are feeling warm and cosy after scooping an entire category in a national woollen fabric design competition.

Australian Wool Innovation’s Wool4School design contest challenged students to design a garment or outfit inspired by flora and fauna and incorporate fibres gentle on the earth.

Wool4School program manager Ashley Hollis said this year’s competition attracted 714 submissions, including 132 from WA.

“They were very diverse from previous years and it really shows how students are absorbing the information,” she said.

St Hilda’s Year 10 student Varna Shetty, 15, won the Mid Designer category for students in Years 9 and 10.

Her schoolmates Mia Wilson, 15, and Ashley Eldon, 15, placed second and third respectively in the same category — making the trio the only WA winners.

Varna received $1000 cash, a $200 voucher for EMU and flights and one night’s accommodation for her and a guardian to meet Australian designer Jonathan Ward in Sydney.

Varna said she had followed the advice of the late Lee Alexander McQueen, Britain’s first international designer of the year.

“There is not a better designer than nature,” was Mr McQueen’s inspirational message.

Varna said her design was inspired by the Pompeii worm species but was made entirely of fine Merino wool.

She was amazed to find the little worms were the most heat-tolerant animal known to scientists — surviving in hydrothermal vents in the deep sea of the Pacific Ocean.

“Initially, I was drawn to the worm’s unique appearance and unusual features,” Varna said.

“I really liked its burnt orange and deep blue colour combination and instantly knew I could mimic its colours and textures to design an innovative outfit.”

Varna instantly made the connection that Merino wool had similar properties to the Pompeii worms.

“Merino wool worn as a garment is breathable with the ability to adapt to our body temperature,” she said.

“It’s comfortable in several environments and has natural resistance to wrinkling.

“I wear Merino in the form of our school uniform and find myself comfortable whatever the temperature.

“Wool is recyclable and keeps the environment clean. It can be dyed with natural dyes such as onion skins and indigo leaves.”

Varna’s design, intended to be made from 18.5 micron and 100 per cent Merino fibre, included an orange body suit top and full-length pants in a deep teal blue with twill weave including five rows of overlapping fringes and flared ruffles, while the body suit design was a jersey knit for soft, next-to-skin wear.

“The theme of my design is Can’t Take the Heat — wear wool,” she said.

Varna said her garment would be breathable, elastic, like the nature of wool that allowed garments to be body-conforming and comfortable.

Ms Shetty would like to follow through with her design to a finished garment as she contemplates a career in the textile industry.

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