Australia and New Zealand finalists International Woolmark Prize 2017/2018 edition Sydney

SYDNEY — Harman Grubisa and Blair Archibald have been named the Australia and New Zealand regional finalists of the 2017/2018 edition of the International Woolmark Prize.

Announced at a lunch on Monday inside a private harborside mansion in Sydney’s Neutral Bay, the Auckland, New Zealand-based women’s wear duo Madeleine Harman and Jessica Grubisa and Archibald, a Melbourne-based men’s wear designer, have both won 70,000 Australian dollars, or $55,248 at current exchange, a Woolmark license and global mentoring support. The designers will go on to join 10 finalists from five other regions to compete in the event’s global finals in Florence in early 2018.

The judging panel was comprised of Gabriela Hearst, International Woolmark Prize 2016/2017 women’s wear winner; Damian Burke, women’s wear general manager at David Jones; Jeremy Hershan, head of design at R.M. Williams; Harper’s Bazaar Australia editor in chief Kellie Hush; influencer Nicole “Gary Pepper Girl” Warne; Men’s Style Australia fashion director Kim Payne, and Stuart McCullough, Australian Wool Innovation chief executive officer and The Woolmark Co. managing director.

Harman Grubisa’s winning look was a belted wool black and tan tweed blazer over a royal blue 16 micron wool dress that converts into a clutch.

Archibald presented a marle gray wool turtleneck and dark gray wool trousers, teamed with a moss green overcoat patchworked from a vintage Australian Army wool blanket from the Sixties together with a new wool/polyamide textile from Italy’s Pontetorto mill that is sourced from repurposed woolen garments and recycled plastic bottles.

The designer has included the original blanket label from Western Australia’s since defunct Albany Woollen Mills inside the coat, together with a second label detailing the origins of the fabrics.

“I thought his [Archibald’s] product was very well thought out, the desirability was there and then he also had a very strong sustainable point of view, which is important for the new luxury consumer,” said Hearst, who was back visiting Australia for the first time in 23 years, since completing her final year of high school on scholarship at Canberra’s Lake Ginninderra College in 1994.

In the hope he might win the regional final, Archibald said he had put on hold 60 of the vintage army blankets and will now proceed to incorporate them into his final Woolmark capsule collection to show in Florence.

“I wanted to explore wool in a different way,” said Archibald. “I took that one word from Woolmark’s mission statement – that it’s a renewable textile – and I really wanted to focus on that. I’ve always been enticed by sustainable practices and I want it to be an imperative part of my work long term.”

Since the International Woolmark Prize was relaunched in 2012, the company’s budget for the competition has almost quadrupled to four million Australian dollars, which is reflective of Australian woolgrowers’ confidence in the program, McCullough said.

“The advertising value [equivalent media coverage] usually ends up at 45 to 50 million Australian dollars,” McCullough said. “They [woolgrowers] think it’s a very good way of leveraging their cash up. You take a four million dollar marketing budget to the world, it [usually] doesn’t go very far.”