The unusual inspiration behind an Australian Woolmark Prize winner

Two regional finalists have been selected to take on the world for the prestigious fashion prize.

By Caitlin Wright 15/08/2017

A coat designed using old army blankets and recycled wool proved the unusual inspiration for Victorian fashion designer BLAIRARCHIBALD to take out the menswear award in the Australia/New Zealand regional final of the prestigious 2017/18 Woolmark Prize.

In the womenswear section, New Zealand’s Harman Grubiša was awarded for its tailored textile designs with striking embellishments, becoming the first New Zealand-based winner of the award.

A judging panel including fashion designer Gabriela Hearst, Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Kellie Hush and David Jones general manager Damian Burke made the decision at the regional final in Sydney.

Jessica Grubiša (left) and Madeleine Harman (right) receive their Woolmark Prize.

The aim of the Woolmark Prize is to identify emerging design stars showcasing captivating uses of Merino wool in their collections.

Business acumen is also a component, says judge and The Woolmark Company managing director, Stuart McCullough.

“If we get an inkling that the cost of goods is prohibitive or they’re not commercially ready for merchandising, then we won’t go with them,” he says.

Both winners will receive a 70,000 financial contribution towards their next collection, as well as an invitation to participate in the international finals in Florence early in 2018.

There, BLAIRARCHIBALD and Harman Grubiša will compete against designers from Asia, the British Isles, Europe, India, Pakistan and Middle East, and the US.

Blair Archibald (right) of BLAIRARCHIBALD.

The global winners will receive $200,000 to assist with fabric sourcing and marketing of their collection and mentoring from industry experts. However, McCullough says a much bigger prize is on offer.

“They get a certain amount of merchandisers around the world who guarantee to take on those winning collections … this really puts you on the international stage in one quick step,” he told Robb Report Australia.

International retail partners include Boon the Shop, S. Korea; Boutique 1, UAE; David Jones, Australia; De Bijenkorf, Amsterdam; Harvey Nichols, UK; Hudson’s Bay Company, Toronto; LECLAIREUR, Paris; Mytheresa.com; ORDRE and SSENSE.COM.

The Australia/New Zealand region has yet to win internationally. However, local judges are hopeful 2018 might be the year. “We’re very comfortable that both the winners will be able to represent the region very nicely next year,” McCullough says.

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