Sustainability is integral to the ethos of International Woolmark Prize womenswear winner Colovos, a value shared with Australian wool-growing property ‘Millpost Merino’.
According to talent advisor Floriane de Saint Pierre, a judge at the 2019 International Woolmark Prize, it was Michael and Nicole Colovos’ attention to sustainability that made them deserving of their namesake label winning this year’s Womenswear award. “Our goal was to create a luxury, modern collection with a fully sustainable proposition,” explained co-founder Michael Colovos. “We are committed to principles of zero waste in manufacturing, so all production waste and end-of-life garments will be recycled to create new fabrics, a process that uses steam, heat and citrus to breakdown the fabric waste and create a new fibre to be spun into fully recyclable yarns.”
Given their passionate interest in environmental practices, the husband and wife couple found much in common with the Watson family, who own and run Australian wool-growing property ‘Millpost Merino’ in Bungendore, on the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales. Having journeyed to Sydney to launch their winning collection at one of the International Woolmark Prize retail network partners David Jones, the Michael and Nicole Colovos – along with their children Max, Arlo and Flynn – made a day trip to the property to better understand the source of the fibre they have learned so much about and become such ardent advocates of.
‘Millpost Merino’ practises broadscale permaculture and the growing of superfine Merino wool, with a portion of their wool processes into yarn that they then sell locally and online, and the Watson family shared their approach to rotational grazing, land and pasture management, and animal welfare, educating Michael and Nicole about the significant amount of work that goes into creating a luxury, functional fibre before it has even been sheared from the sheep.
“We always try to work with farmers that are really conscious about how they’re producing, and we’re also working with mills that are part of the Greenpeace detox program, so they’re not using a lot of chemicals in the dyeing process,” explains Michael. “We always worked with natural fabrics, but once we started working on the Woolmark project we wanted to make a collection that was 100% sustainable. So, taking ideas from the [Woolmark Prize] capsule collection and working on that for a whole year allowed us to implement things into our own brand at the same time.” Now, the couple proudly guarantees that even garment labels are made from recycled fabrics, and they’ve radically changed the way that they source and finish their fabrics. “Colovos has evolved more and more into a sustainable label along the way,” adds Nicole.
An important aspect of the pair’s approach is in traceability, with every garment comprising a scannable QR code, allowing a customer to look up the inspiration behind the design of a garment as well as its material content. “But it’s also for end-of-life,” says Michael. “We want garments to last forever, but after wearing something for 10 or 15 years we want people to be able to send their clothes back to us for recycling into new fabrics, or if they on-sell it, the next wearer can understand the provenance and story behind the garment, too.”