A judging panel comprising André Leon Talley, Dao-Yi Chow, Julie Gilhart, Malcolm Carfrae, Marc Karimzadeh, Maxwell Osborne, Michelle A. Lee and Stefano Tonchi selected Rochambeau as the menswear winner. Gabriela Hearst was selected by André Leon Talley, Jason Wu, Julie Gilhart, Laura Brown, Robbie Myers, Malcolm Carfrae, Michelle A. Lee, Steven Kolb, Glenda Bailey and Stefano Tonchi as the winner for the womenswear category.
Laurence Chandler and Joshua Cooper of Rochambeau were inspired by New York - particularly post-9/11 and the movement of artists that came to define the city in the aftermath of crisis. There was a certain outlaw, renegade approach to life that they worked to capture in their look.
"All of the judges just really connected with the ease and authenticity and they also really appreciated that the Rochambeau boys pushed outside of their comfort zone,” explains Dao-Yi Chow. “From an innovation standpoint, working with wool, the fibre, and the silhouettes, it felt like they really took the challenge heads up and tried to do something new.”
The Rochambeau design duo commented: "From the moment we received the nomination, it has just been a tremendous honour for us to work with The Woolmark Company, aside from the competition and then us being pushed creatively, it has opened up different business avenues. For us, we have new vendors that we are working with, our Fall/Winter 17 collection features wool that we discovered during the competition so it is a tremendous honour to win this award. It is our first award and we are so thankful for the Woolmark team for all their support and know that it is just an ongoing conversation."
The winning design from Gabriela Hearst was made of a Cariaggi yarn of 14-micron ultrafine Merino wool and featured a herringbone stitch on the sleeve, with Jason Wu adding that: "I thought it was really great that Gabriela won. It just shows that she is really talented with a great point of view and is equally business savvy."
Hearst’s win not only means a lot to her from a fashion point of view, but also has a personal touch thanks to her Uruguayan heritage. "From a personal level, it means so much to me because I am a sixth-generation Merino wool producer,” she said. “My grandfather, father and mother and their children, we love wool so much and so it is like part of my being. Wool has been a part of my family for a long time and now with design, it is like two worlds wrapping together."
Chosen from the most promising fashion design talent in the USA, both win AU$50,000 (approximately US$37,476), plus the opportunity to represent the USA in the prestigious global finals. In addition, each winner will receive mentoring support from a global panel of experts and will be granted a Woolmark license.
For the next six months, the winning designers will develop a capsule collection in Merino wool, to be showcased at one of the two extraordinary events that will highlight the six menswear finalists and six womenswear finalists from across the globe. The menswear final will be held during London Collections Men and the women's in Paris, both in January 2017.
The winners of both global finals will receive a further AU$100,000 (approximately US$74,953) to assist with fabric sourcing and marketing of their collection, as well as mentoring from industry experts. In addition, both international winners will have their collections distributed through the prize's prestigious international retail partner network including Harvey Nichols in the UK, David Jones in Australia, Boutique 1 in the UAE, Verso in Belgium, LECLAIREUR in Paris, Boon the Shop in South Korea, The Papilion in Indonesia and online through mytheresa.com (womenswear) and MATCHESFASHION.COM (menswear).
The Woolmark Company is pleased to have the support of Wine Australia as its official drinks partner, along with Priti NYC for nail styling, Cutler Salon for hair and makeup by MAC.