Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones (centre) flanked by models after they were announced winners of the International Woolmark Prize womenswear final in New York City.
The award was judged by a highly esteemed panel, including André Leon Talley, respected fashion author, editor and consultant, former Editor-at-Large, American Vogue; Imran Amed, Founder, CEO & Editor-in-Chief, Business of Fashion; Tim Blanks, Editor-at Large, Business of Fashion; Stefano Tonchi, Editor-in-Chief, W Magazine; Julie Gilhart, fashion consultant and International Woolmark Prize mentor; Thakoon Panichgul, Chief Creative Officer, THAKOON; Colette Garnsey, Director, Australian Wool Innovation (parent company of The Woolmark Company); andStuart McCullough, Managing Director, The Woolmark Company; alongside representatives from the International Woolmark Prize’s retail partners.
“I loved the original concept, the articulation of the concept and the romanticism of the clothes,” said André Leon Talley after the announcement. “They did their research in terms of sourcing and I believe some customers will really respond to the narrative. It was wonderful.”
Thakoon Panichgul explained: “The winner took to the task of using wool in innovative ways. They showed artisanal qualities through wool lace, colour blocking and double-faced wool creating a three-dimensional quality.”
Inspired by a Wool Utopia conceived by English nun Agnes Morrogh-Bernard in 1892, whereby she founded the Foxford Woollen Mills to weave luxurious woollen blankets and restore hope to an impoverished town, Teatum Jones travelled to the mill to create exclusive blankets and modernised them with geometric foil prints and hand embroideries on skirts and jackets.
Using a mix of 17.5 micron and 19.5 micron Australian Merino wool for the clothes, and 23 micron wool for the accessories, the UK design duo partnered with a specialist guipure lace mill in France, convincing them to use wool for the first time, to create innovative, vibrant geometric Merino laces - inspired by the geometric borders of the blankets. Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones then flew to Italy where they developed a stretch wool that feels similar to a scuba suit, upon which they bonded the Merino lace, creating a luxurious lace fabric that performed as a structured tailoring cloth.
“For our regional entry we really pushed the innovation in our textile development and the use of Merino wool. We had developed many techniques and new ways of using Merino, which impressed the judges. For the final capsule collection, we decided to take the strongest of these techniques and concentrate on developing them, refining them and maximising the beauty in their potential.
"This is amazing, we are honoured and excited and it’s just the beginning; we have only scratched the surface. This award lets us ignite the magic of wool, so the customer sees the romance in wool.This competition is the opportunity to be physically present at store launches and being able to pass on that experience to the customer is magical."
Stuart McCullough, Managing Director of The Woolmark Company, said: “Teatum Jones has showcased wool in a unique but very commercial way. We are excited about their take on Australian Merino wool and it feels like something very new.”
More than 70 designers were considered for the womenswear award of the International Woolmark Prize over the past year, with the finalists representing six different regions around the world. The finalists were J KOO (Asia), Bianca Spender (Australia), Teatum Jones (British Isles), Nanna van Blaaderen (Europe), Taller Marmo (India, Pakistan and the Middle East) and Tanya Taylor (USA).
Teatum Jones will receive AU$100,000 to help support the development of their business. They will also receive ongoing industry mentor support, and their capsule collection, created for the International Woolmark Prize, will go on sale in some of the world’s most prestigious department stores and boutiques. These include MyTheresa.com (online), David Jones (Australia), Harvey Nichols (United Kingdom), Boutique 1 (UAE), Isetan Mitsukoshi (Japan), Saks Fifth Avenue (USA) and new partner retailers Verso (Belgium) and Boon the Shop (South Korea).