The Woolmark Prize held in Paris in 1954 launched the careers of Yves Saint Laurent (third from left) and Karl Lagerfeld (left).
The French opening marks a significant step forward for the Australian company that, since 2010, has engaged a global repositioning plan with the objective to relaunch the prestige of the Woolmark brand and increase the knowledge, appreciation and demand of Australian Merino wool across the international markets.
A strategic approach is being undertaken across Marketing, aimed at promoting the perception and the consumption of wool products amongst global consumers, and Research and Development activities, with a focus on supporting the wool supply chain – from the farmers to spinners, weavers and manufacturers – to increase the quality of the Merino wool fibre.
The strategy spans the most important markets in the world: China, US, Europe, India, Japan, Korea and Australia, where the company has been reinforcing its presence in the past two years. The opening in France signals the pinnacle of this strategic plan and completes the global network of 18 offices around the world.
"As the epicentre of luxury and excellence, France has always been one of the most important countries for wool, both from a B2B perspective, with the importance of the French fashion industry, and as a consumption market,” explains Stuart McCullough, CEO of The Woolmark Company.
“We definitely want to re-establish ourselves in the French market and are now determined to grow there and affirm wool as a premium fibre working at the highest level of the market."
Australian Merino wool is one of the world’s finest and most versatile natural fibres and Australia is the main producer of wool in apparel with 85 per cent of the demand for the fibre coming from the fashion and luxury industry.
The relaunch in France also signals the intention of The Woolmark Company to reinforce its activity in the womenswear segment, stimulate the demand of wool coming from the French Maison and apparel brands, and enhance the extraordinary potential of the fibre in this area. Thanks to an industry focus on breeding and other quality on-farm practices, wool has become finer and more versatile and is incredibly soft next to skin, while keeping at the same time its natural qualities of breathability and elasticity. Merino wool has proven to be an ideal fibre to suit the requirements of French designers and fashion houses, always looking for the newest inspirations and the best products to feed the desires of a demanding global consumer.
Interest in the French market has been increasing throughout the past twelve months, as testified by the launch of regionally specific advertising campaigns and communication projects, involving some of the most prestigious French designers and Maisons including, Jean Paul Gaultier, Givenchy and Lanvin, created in collaboration with Vogue France and Vogue Italy.
"I work with wool as I work with my creations: I like to find solutions, to speak with my team about how we can innovate with this natural and traditional material. We experience new cuts, new design, new prints. And above all new ideas," said Mr Alber Elbaz, creative director of Lanvin and judge of the International Woolmark Prize, Europe.
The history of the International Woolmark Prize is in itself strongly linked to the evolution of French fashion, as the second edition of the competition, in 1954, was actually won by two very young designers, Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent, whose contributions to modern fashion, and particularly to French fashion, is immense.
"France is at the forefront of the next phase of growth as part of our Global Marketing strategy,” explained Stuart McCullough. “We have a commitment to support and highlight excellence and creativity, definitely two strong assets of the country. In the next months, we'll work to expand and reinforce our connections in the market, with the aim to develop relevant Marketing and Communication activities."
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