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Joseph Altuzarra Reflects on U.S. Woolmark Prize Win

The designer described his winning design as “an amalgamation of a lot of things.”

As the U.S. winner of the International Woolmark Award, Joseph Altuzarra plans to put the $100,000 prize money to good use.

This story first appeared in the July 11, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

And a trip to Disneyland is not in his immediate future.

“We’re going to work on pre-fall,” said Altuzarra, after receiving his award Tuesday night at Industria Superstudio in New York. “I’m really stunned. Obviously, I’m very happy. It’s been an incredibly fun project.” Altuzarra and the other finalists (representing 10 companies in total) stood in a room at the awards ceremony with models wearing their innovative designs made of wool.

“This was a little bit like ‘Project Runway,’” said Daniel Vosovic, one of the finalists, who happened to be the first runner-up on season two of the reality TV show, and the winner of “Project Runway All Stars.”

Altuzarra described his winning design as “an amalgamation of a lot of things.” He said he designed a cardigan jacket with different elements transforming into each other. There was a needle-punching illusion of one fabric becoming the next. “It makes it look like it was all transformed into different states. There’s lots of experimentation,” he said about the garment, which was a dusty pink merino wool cashmere jacket with peplum front and needle-punched shoulders and a dusty pink felted wool skirt with needle-punched side seams.

Altuzarra said he wasn’t nervous going before the panel of judges. “I enjoyed going in. It’s always enjoyable when you’re presenting something you’re proud of. It went beyond working with wool in developing new techniques.”

Alexander Wang, one of the judges, said choosing Altuzarra “was a decision we felt very comfortable with.” Wang said he was impressed with “his whole presentation, his focus and point of view and his intent in creating something 100 percent merino wool and expressing it in a completely new spectrum and giving it a new identity.”

Another judge, Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director for Saks Fifth Avenue, added, “What was really interesting is we saw 10 very talented designers. I was impressed with the professionalism and how organized it was. We all agreed in the end, but it could have been a close call.” Sherin called Altuzarra’s collection “the perfect blend of commercialism and avant-garde.” She said that Saks already stocks his collection, “and he is a designer we very much believe in.”

Altuzarra, who celebrates his 30th birthday today, will compete for the International Woolmark Prize, which is awarded next February during Milan Fashion Week. Each of the regional winners (from the U.S., Europe, India, China and Australia) will participate in the international contest, where the winner will receive $100,000 in underwriting their next fashion show and have his or her designs carried by leading global retailers such as Saks in the U.S., Harvey Nichols in the U.K., 10 Corso Como in Italy, Joyce in China, Eickoff in Germany and David Jones in Australia.