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15/01/2018

Meet the International Woolmark prizewinners weaving their magic with merino

From finding a way to locate people trapped in avalanches to upcycling Indian saris into quilts, the inspirations for the winners of this year's International Woolmark Prize were as diverse as the fashion collections they produced.

Indian brand Bodice won the $200,00 International Woolmark Prize for womenswear, British designer Matthew Miller snared the $200,000 prize for menswear and American brand DYNE won the $100,000 innovation award in the global prize that recognises fashion design excellence using Australian merino wool.

Inspired by memories of her grandmother making quilts out of old saris, Bodice designer Ruchika Sachdeva created a collection using recycled yarns and traditional techniques that aim to consumer waste in fashion. Sachdeva worked with Indian handweavers using a technique originally employed for recycling old saris by hand-sewing them together and with a company in central India that dyes fabrics with colours from natural sources. Buttons were sourced from renewable sources including coconut shell, seashell and wood to complete the brand's vision of conscious consumption.

"I design for a woman who is thoughtful and questions where her clothes are coming from," Sachdeva said. "It's not just enough for her that what she wears is beautiful; she is a conscious consumer who really wants to know the story behind the brand."

Italian Vogue editor-in-chief Emanuele Farneti, Russian digital entrepreneur Miroslava Duma, model Amber Valetta and designer Phillip Lim were among the judges of the event, held on January 9 at the Stazione Leopolda in Florence on the opening night of Pitti Uomo, the world's largest men's fashion trade event.

Thoughtful designs

Lim said Bodice's collection was "completely thoughtful. From the materials and dyes used all the way to the application and everything in between, her collection really represents a modern woman."

DYNE's Christopher Bevans impressed the panel with a technical snowboarding wardrobe including a water-resistant wool jacket embedded with a near-field communication chip to track users in avalanches.

"The NFC chips he embedded in his collection, and the fabrication of the snowboard gear, really stood out," said Duma. "He really thinks about technology every step of the way."

British designer Matthew Miller channelled Dieter Rams' concept of form follows function to add multifunctional elements for different environments.

"I created a collection that can be worn as normal garments but then evolve into accessories if you don't want to wear them as clothes," said Miller, who also used water-resistant wool fabrics and eradicated the need for plastic fastenings by using recycled materials including waste marble.

"It's a utilitarian uniform for a customer who appreciates good design and sustainability."

More than 65 designers from over 60 countries were nominated this year for the world's most prestigious award for rising fashion talents, with global finalists including Blair Archibald from Australia and Harman Grubiša from New Zealand.

In addition to their prize money, Sachdeva and Miller will have their winning designs stocked in the world's greatest fashion stores, including Lane Crawford, Harvey Nichols, Leclaireur and David Jones.

"This is a huge opportunity to expand on what I do and keep doing it," Sachdeva said. "To get the chance to work with these retailers is incredible."Read more at:plus size wedding dresses | bridal gowns

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