The Wonders of Wool
Discover 4 designers debuting innovative Merino wool fabrications with The Woolmark Company
Words by Holly Swayne Photographs by Theresa Marx Styling by Julia Brenard
Wool is a fibre that once conjured up images of unshapely, bobbling winter jumpers - warm and functional, but with very little focus on fashion. But now, thanks to The Woolmark Company and its pioneering partnerships with the world’s most inspiring design talents, this association couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Woolmark Company is a not-for-profit enterprise dedicated to pushing boundaries with Australian Merino wool. Natural, biodegradable, renewable, long-lasting and unexpectedly versatile, it is a yarn with potential for both luxury and innovation, so it's no wonder designers are keen to use it on the runway.
Not merely reserved for jumpers and cardigans, AW17 saw the fibre reimagined in the most creative ways. From Dion Lee’s deconstructed knitted tailoring to Gabriela Hearst’s structured Merino pleats, here we explore four designers innovating with Merino wool for a truly transformative approach.
Mario-Luca Carlucci and Peter Strateas are the Australian design duo championing knitted tailoring with an edge
In the landscape of Australian fashion, STRATEAS CARLUCCI is leading the charge for offbeat, streetwear-inspired pieces using Merino wool. The designers’ unique ‘Roll Knit’ jacquard won them the Australia regional final for the International Woolmark Prize in 2014/15, and the feature has become somewhat of a brand signature ever since. What to expect this season? “We wanted to play with texture, and continue to experiment with boiled wools to create interesting bubbled and rough-looking surfaces,” say the designers. Work the look with boxy double-breasted blazers and decadent ruffled skirts in pillar-box red.
Sydney-based designer Dion Lee is renowned for experimental cuts on wool-blended outerwear and separates
Dion Lee is a stickler for including Australian Merino in his collections, using it every season to add a fluid softness to his signature tailored pieces. “Wool is a seasonless fabric,” he says. “Its natural drape and shape-retention qualities are ideal for tailoring, and it’s an efficient temperature regulator, so is perfect for knitwear that sits close to the body.” For AW17, this plays out in masculine check and accents of red, with deconstructed details like cut-out knitted necklines and twisted shapes.
Not just for sweaters: Gabriela Hearst’s Merino pleats are clean-cut and contemporary
Gabriela Hearst won the prestigious International Woolmark Prize for 2016/17, something particularly apt given she grew up on a Merino wool sheep farm in Uruguay. “It is an honour not only to be recognised by the industry, but also to be able to work with such an exceptional material,” she says of winning. “Wool is an amazing fibre with so many inherent qualities that can benefit humans, and it has supported my family for so many generations.” This season she uses it on delicately sheer polo-necks styled under gowns, as well as clean-cut pleated skirts in an array of rich autumnal colours.
Australian sisters Beth and Tessa MacGraw transform Merino wool into fiercely feminine pieces
For truly unexpected results with wool, MacGraw is the label to know. This season the sisters have developed their own Merino lace, used to craft delicate high-neck tops and intricately embroidered florals. Each piece was made in collaboration with the Country Women’s Association of Australia. “We worked with their embroiderers on all the wool hand embroidery in the collection,” the sisters explain. “These women are all about supporting our rural communities and they are a truly beloved and iconic group of Australian women.”
Girl: Hannah @ Models1, Boy: Ramon @ Nevs