P.Johnson and Bianca Spender were today announced as the menswear and womenswear winners, respectively, of the 2015/16 International Woolmark Prize Australian regional final, at an awards event held at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney.
A judging panel comprising designer Osman Yousefzada, David Jones’ General Manager for Womenswear Sophie Clark and General Manager for Menswear Deborah Foreman, Harper’s Bazaar Editor-in-Chief Kellie Hush, Vogue Australia Editor-in-Chief Edwina McCann, Manuscript Editor-in-Chief Mitchell Oakley Smith and The Woolmark Company’s Melissa Grace selected P.Johnson as the menswear winner and Bianca Spender as the winner for the womenswear category.
“Patrick Johnson’s construction was beautiful, the make was exquisite and there was some really great innovations with Merino wool,” said McCann. “People don’t really think of Australian fashion for fine tailoring but this is a slightly more relaxed tailoring, it’s very light. And the fact that he grew up on a Merino wool farm means he is genuinely passionate about using the fibre.”
“I work with wool everyday,” explained Johnson. “But this prize really made me refocus the relationship with my weavers and the technology we use around wool, thinking ‘okay where can we take this fibre, where can we go with it’. And that’s been a really powerful thing.”
While Johnson drew inspiration from the iconic Sydney Opera House, Spender impressed with her sheer wool gauze trouser suit.
“I really liked Bianca Spender’s passion,” said Yousefzada. “I felt she had a very earnest sensibility about her. There was very interesting detailing and an artisanal approach to her work and I wanted to see more. It had an element of being ethereal, a bit sublime and a little bit romantic, in a poetic way.”
Spender described her involvement in the prize as “life-changing” after receiving her award. “It’s an incredible thing. We all build a journey in our work and I am amazed that this is part of mine. I have had such a long affair with wool and it feels like things have all come together to tell a story that I’m very passionate about. It feels like the stars have all aligned.”
Chosen from amongst the ten most promising talents in Australian fashion design, both winners gain a financial contribution of AU$50,000, plus the opportunity to represent Australia and compete in the prestigious international final. The final for menswear will be held in Florence in January 2016, and the womenswear final will be held in New York in February 2016.
For the next six to seven months the winning designers will be required to develop a capsule collection in Merino wool, to be showcased at one of two extraordinary events that will highlight the six menswear finalists and six womenswear finalists selected from across the globe.
The finalists will compete for the coveted International Woolmark Prize, the winners being awarded an additional AU$100,000 and the opportunity to be stocked in the most important retailers of the world, including Harvey Nichols (London), 10 Corso Como (Milan, Beijing and Shanghai), Matchesfashion.com (online), Mytheresa.com (online), Saks Fifth Avenue (NYC), Joyce (China), Isetan Mitsukoshi (Japan), Boutique 1 (UAE) and David Jones (Australia).
The Woolmark Company Managing Director Stuart McCullough explains: “The International Woolmark Prize is our commitment to educating the next generation of fashion industry leaders about the extraordinary potential of Merino wool, and we congratulate P.Johnson and Bianca Spender on their win.
“With the number of countries represented the largest yet, the International Woolmark Prize is a truly global celebration of emerging talent and most importantly provides the winning designers with a unique opportunity for commercial success on a global scale.”