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Beyond the Bale : March 2015
8 OFF FARM INTERNATIONAL WOOLMARK PRIZE PUBLIC SCHOOL from the USA has become the inaugural winner of the International Woolmark Prize menswear competition, presenting a Merino wool capsule collection that showcases an innovative extension of sportswear. The International Woolmark Prize is designed to generate long term incremental demand for Australian Merino wool by connecting emerging designers, emerging markets and consumers. Since AWI revived the International Woolmark Prize in 2012 it has generated more than $110 million dollars’ worth of editorial value. So it was only a matter of time before the prize was expanded to not only include more designers from more countries, but to establish a separate award for menswear. Held on the opening day of London Collections: Men in January, five of the world’s leading emerging menswear designers stood in front of the who’s who of men’s fashion, all with their eyes firmly on the prize. SISE (Asia), STRATEAS.CARLUCCI (Australia), Asger Juel Larsen (Europe), The Emperor 1688 (India & Middle East) and PUBLIC SCHOOL (USA) each presented a six-piece Merino wool capsule collection to a panel which included iconic designer Sir Paul Smith and Editor-at-large for Style.com Tim Blanks. But it was hip New York label PUBLIC SCHOOL, led by Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow, which edged out fierce competition with their fully fashioned knit collection, blurring the lines between sportswear and streetwear and influenced by the urban culture of NYC. THE WINNING COLLECTION At first glance, their collection may be a little hard for some to digest; but when broken down into individual pieces you have garments which truly highlight the innovative nature of Merino wool. If anyone knows menswear, it’s Sir Paul Smith, and he too admits that PUBLIC SCHOOL’s collection may be a little edgy for those used to fine, classic tailoring when it comes to wool. But, Paul Smith knows menswear. And sitting on the judging panel he argues that this type of innovation is exactly what the Australian wool industry needs. “Normally you associate sportswear with maybe a man-made fibre as opposed to a natural fibre,” he said. “Often with Merino wool there is the perception of a fairly loose sweater. Whereas these winning designs were actually fully fashioned and fit the body beautifully. “You might say, ‘it is too extreme or a bit odd because it’s got hoods or whatever’ and that’s absolutely true. But actually when you dissect it, when you take the hood down, or you just wear the top with some blue jeans, it is all there.” Sourcing yarns from multiple Italian spinners using top-quality Australian Merino wool, the entire collection – carefully curated in just 10 weeks – was created from a mix of both hand and machine knitting. Their grey and black leggings, drop-crotch jogging pants and hooded pullovers are an innovative extension of traditional sportswear, presenting multi-purpose, premium apparel. British GQ Editor Dylan Jones, Sir Paul Smith, PUBLIC SCHOOL designers Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow alongside AWI CEO Stuart McCullough. PHOTO: Darren Gerrish MENSWEAR AWARD