Cottweiler and Gabriela Hearst win the 2016/17 International Woolmark Prize in Paris

Cottweiler and Gabriela Hearst win the 2016/17 International Woolmark Prize in Paris

Cottweiler and Gabriela Hearst were announced the winners of the menswear and womenswear 2016/2017 International Woolmark Prize, presented at a special event at the iconic Palais de Tokyo, Paris.

The return of the International Woolmark Prize to Paris nods to the original awards, initiated by the International Wool Secretariat in 1953.

2017 also marks the first time the menswear and womenswear awards have been held together as one prestigious event.

Connecting the world’s leading fashion designers with Australian Merino wool is extremely important due to the enormous influence these designers have in setting global textile trends for mainstream retail brands.

The International Woolmark Prize generates long-term incremental demand for wool by connecting emerging designers, emerging markets and consumers with Australia’s versatile natural fibre.

The award was judged by a highly esteemed panel, including menswear judges Benn McGregor, Senior Buyer Menswear at Harvey Nichols and Imran Amed, founder and CEO of Business of Fashion.

The womenswear jury panel included fashion designer Victoria Beckham and General Manager Womenswear at David Jones, Damian Burke.

“Cottweiler is working with wool in a highly original way that mixes sports, tailoring, streetwear and fashion, and I think that represents a new dimension in menswear,” said Dazed Media CEO and Co-Founder Jefferson Hack after the announcement.

Representing the British Isles, Cottweiler’s winning collection comprises sheer Merino wool base-layers, windproof mid-layers and quilted waterproof outerwear, with wool-blend fabrics ranging from 18.5 microns through to 19.5 microns, and recycled wool scraps used for insulation.

The resultant collection brings Cottweiler’s brand of fetish-infused cult and tribe codes into the world of wool, with utilitarian detailing – padded hoods, detachable cargo pockets, running caps, and elasticised hems and cuffs, for example – at its core.

“Winning the International Woolmark Prize gives us the opportunity to share what we do with a much bigger, global audience,” said Cottweiler after the win. “But for us, the great part of this was the opportunity to work with a different material – Merino wool – because we’re always interested in experimenting with technology and development.”

“Cottweiler doesn’t want to show off and are very relaxed and confident in themselves and what they show,” said Hood by Air Creative Director Shayne Oliver.

“They know where to go with this funding and it will give them the push to get to the level they deserve to be at.”

Representing the USA, Gabriela Hearst was praised for her technical innovation and quality craftsmanship.

“The International Woolmark Prize gives a huge opportunity to young designers globally,” explains Victoria Beckham. “It shows how much you can do with wool as a designer.

“I was very much in support of Gabriela. For me, she is the worthy winner. I love what she does and she’s clearly very talented. I like her eye, she has great product and she’s a strong woman. I have a huge amount of respect for her. I’m proud and honoured to get involved in this and help make this possible for her.”

British Fashion Council Chair Dame Natalie Massenet DBE echoes this sentiment, saying: “We picked Gabriela because we thought she struck a chord on every level: a passion for wool, its history, and the varied uses of wool. I learned a lot hearing her talking about the processes and the fact wool doesn’t wrinkle. She did a very good job of showing high-low, from evening gowns through to trench coats and pant suits and we feel that she will have an enormous future and will be great spokesperson for wool.”

Born in Uruguay, the New York-based designer grew up on a sheep farm and believes in the traditional values of quality. Hearst’s winning International Woolmark Prize collection presents sleek silhouettes with updates on trench coats, pleats and an evening dress teamed with the more utilitarian baseball jacket with adjoining scarf, one-piece long johns, reversible puffer vest and cycling trousers. Using ultrafine 14.5 micron Merino wool for luxurious knitwear, though to 21.5 micron wool to create a wool-velvet fabrication, Hearst’s clean cuts and precision offers a collection set to stand the test of time.

“From a personal perspective I wish my grandfather and father were here,” said Gabriela Hearst after the win. “As a designer it’s a huge honour to be recognised and I cannot wait to promote more Merino wool in the world as I believe it is the yarn of future.”

“Paris has always been a key market for wool,” explains The Woolmark Company Managing Director Stuart McCullough. “It is not only home to some of the world’s most iconic luxury fashion houses, but also to some of the world most fashion-forward, savvy consumers. Bringing the International Woolmark Prize back to Paris shines the spotlight on fashion’s next generation, and I congratulate both Cottweiler and Gabriela Hearst on their respective wins.”

More than 75 designers from more than 60 countries were nominated for this year’s award, with finalists representing six different regions around the world.

The finalists were Münn and Toton (Asia), Ex Infinities and macgraw (Australia), Cottweiler and Faustian Steinmetz (British Isles), Tonsure and Tim Labenda (Europe), Bonipun and Nachiket Barve (India, Pakistan and the Middle East) and Rochambeau and Gabriela Hearst (USA).

Both Cottweiler and Gabriela Hearst will each receive AU$100,000 to help support the development of their business.

They will also receive ongoing industry mentor support, Woolmark certification for their winning collection and the opportunity to be stocked in some of the world’s most prestigious department stores and boutiques.

These include Boutique 1, Boon the Shop, David Jones, Harvey Nichols, Hudson’s Bay Company, Isetan, Lane Crawford, LECLAIREUR,, The Papilion and All finalists’ collections will also become available for wholesale purchase via Ordre.

Image: 2016/17 International Woolmark Prize menswear winners Ben Cottrell and Matthew Dainty of Cottweiler, with womenswear winner Gabriela Hearst (centre).