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AWEX EMI 1142 -
Micron 17 1690 -
Micron 18 1522 +13
Micron 19 1418 +10
Micron 20 1352 +19
Micron 21 1306 +4
Micron 22 1290 +8
Micron 23 1224n -10
Micron 25 696 +8
Micron 26 509 -10
Micron 28 352 -
Micron 30 322 -8
Micron 32 292 +2
MCar 762 +2

Australian designers skilled with wool

AWI’s marketing arm The Woolmark Company has relaunched its Incubation Lab education program for emerging and established Australian fashion designers to upskill their knowledge of Merino wool, thereby helping to increase use of the fibre in their collections.

Designers that attended the Incubation Lab workshop held last month in Sydney. Pictured left to right are: Jemyma Kavanagh from Hyde and Stone, Gabby Neal from INTACT, Shona McAlpine and Sean Venturi from Venroy, Alex Rost and Jennifer De Leon from SIR., Emma Scott from Iris & Wool, Shanelle Simpson from Alemais, Sophie Pinzone from Christopher Esber, Eliana Godoy from Bassike, Ellie Rackemann from Beare Park, and Clementine Hurley, Business Development Manager – Fashion and Product for Australia and New Zealand at The Woolmark Company.

Australia’s fashion and textile industry

  • Diverse and globally connected.
  • Contributes $27.2 billion to Australia’s GDP (more than 1.5%).
  • Provides more export value than the Australian beer and wine industries combined.
  • Employs more than 489,000 people, from fibre suppliers through to retail staff.

First held in 2019, but put on hold during COVID, The Woolmark Company’s Incubation Lab education program consists of a series of one-day educational workshops that provide Australian designers with in-depth information and inspiration about the properties and benefits of Merino wool.

The Woolmark Company’s aim of the program is to encourage the designers to continue to use wool in their designs as they progress through their professional lives.

The Incubation Lab was relaunched last month in Sydney and was attended by a leading group of Australian designers, decision makers, heads of design and sustainability managers from the following brands: Alemais, Bassike, Beare Park, INTACT, Hyde and Stone, SIR., Iris & Wool, Christopher Esber, and Venroy.

At the Incubation Lab workshops, the designers heard from industry experts about wool from on-farm to off-farm and covered topics including sustainability, circularity and traceability, global legislation, product innovations and future forecasting.

The Woolmark Company aims to replicate the successful workshop format in different countries across the world.

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AWI General Manager, Processing Innovation & Education Extension, Julie Davies, deepening the designers’ understanding of the world’s most sophisticated natural fibre, Australian Merino wool.

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The designers examining innovative textile fabrications made using Australian Merino wool.

 

AWI CEO John Roberts says the Incubation Lab program ultimately aims to drive new opportunities for designing with wool, and put more wool apparel in retailers’ stores for consumers to purchase.

“As the industry’s research, development and marketing company we want more designers to value and use wool in what they do,” John said.

“Wool is a natural, renewable and biodegradable fibre that is perfect for use in so many different things. The Incubation Lab program is about sharing with designers the knowledge of The Woolmark Company and international guest speakers, so the designers can increase their use of wool.”

“Initiatives such as the Incubation Lab are helping position The Woolmark Company as the leading fashion body in Australia that supports, educates and fosters emerging and established designers through product and business development and global networking support.”
- John Roberts, AWI CEO

Gabby Neal of INTACT

Gabby Neal, founder and creative director of Australian lifestyle brand INTACT made the journey to attend the Incubation Lab in Sydney from Condobolin, where her parents Rob and Belinda, along with middle sister Louise and her husband Alex, run Merinos with 19-20 micron wool.

INTACT was launched in April 2022 with a range of everyday wardrobe essentials that can be worn all year round, for work and play. The staples in the capsule collection are knitted with Woolmark certified yarn of 100% Australian Merino wool.

Gabby’s take home from the Incubation Lab was the importance of fostering local fashion industry networks to drive awareness of wool benefits.

“Working with Woolmark has been integral to the success of INTACT, keeping our business up to date with the latest in wool trends. The Incubation Lab was an incredible day, connecting with peers, and learning about the latest industry insights and innovations and how designers on a global scale are weaving wool into their new collections,” Gabby said.

“I come at it from a woolgrower and designer background, and it’s exciting to see leading Australian and New Zealand brands getting behind Merino wool as part of the global shift towards natural fibres.”

“The Woolmark Company does an incredible job sharing their knowledge with the fashion industry, and more events like this will be key to growing demand for this homegrown fibre.”
- Gabby Neal, founder of INTACT

Sean Venturi of Venroy

Founder and creative director of premium leisurewear brand Venroy, Sean Venturi, was another designer that attended the Incubation Lab in Sydney.

Launched in Bondi in 2010 with ‘above the knee’ swim shorts that quickly garnered a global following, Venroy has since evolved a complete lifestyle offering for men and women. Natural fibres – including wool, linen, cotton and silk – are integral to the brand’s timeless, breezy, and easy-to-wear pieces. Venroy has eight stores across Australia, Italy and the US.

“The Woolmark Company put on an amazing day that was truly insightful. Speakers throughout the day covered many very important and relevant aspects of our industry – including upcoming global legislation movements that will impact us all,” Sean said.

“The support we receive from the team at Woolmark is unrivalled from any other organisation in Australia. There is a constant and genuine care for the Australian wool industry, and through Woolmark’s work with us we are inspired to explore and continue to use wool – not through direct encouragement but through a more aligned, mutually beneficial approach which feels like a true partnership.”

“The support we receive from the team at Woolmark is unrivalled from any other organisation in Australia … and through Woolmark’s work with us we are inspired to explore and continue to use wool.”
- Sean Venturi, founder of Venroy

Other designer support initiatives

The Woolmark Company also offers other year-round guidance and development opportunities to Australian and other fashion designers from across the world, including via:

  • The Wool Lab – A seasonal sourcing guide that contains swatches of a selection of the most innovative and quality wool fabrics, yarns and processes commercially available on the market from the best spinners, knitters and weavers in the world. See woolmark.com/the-wool-lab
  • Technical team – The Woolmark Company has a dedicated technical team of experts that have specialist knowledge in all areas of the supply chain and are available to assist its partners with technical transfer, troubleshooting, and process and product development.
  • Supply chain optimisation – The Woolmark Company partners with designers, brands and retailers to commercialise new wool product lines. The company offers design team support with supply chain assistance, quality assurance, product innovation and marketing.
  • Woolmark Learning Centre – This is a free web-based hub that houses world-class educational resources about wool for learners at all levels, including those entering the global textile industry as well as those already in it. See woolmarklearningcentre.com

In addition, the International Woolmark Prize is an illustrious fashion award and talent development program that provides the world’s best emerging designers with education, mentorship, networking opportunities, early-stage funding, global wool supply chain access and commercialisation. See www.woolmarkprize.com

Student educational initiatives

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Students at a Naturally Inspiring seminar in Melbourne.

Through The Woolmark Company, AWI also fosters the wool education and development of students, from primary through to tertiary.

AWI offers students a range of educational initiatives including:

  • Woolmark Learning Centre – See the above section.
  • Naturally Inspiring seminars – These seminars not only offer tertiary textile and fashion students from across the world the chance to learn about the natural benefits of wool and the variety of ways to work with the fibre, but they also give the students an insight into working in the fashion, textile and retail industries.
  • AWET grants – Through grants provided by the Australian Wool Education Trust (AWET), which was established by AWTA in 1997, AWI promotes the use of wool by leading Australian fashion design students. See woolwise.com
  • Woolmark Performance Challenge – This is a competition and educational program for tertiary students from across the world to develop innovative new product applications for Merino wool within the sports and performance market. See woolmarkchallenge.com
  • Wool science and technology program – These courses have been delivered for many years to tertiary textile students in China to help ensure that the country’s mills can manufacture quality products made from Australian wool. The courses have now been extended to India.
  • Wool4School – This design competition enables secondary school students in Australia, the UK and Italy to not only learn the fundamentals of fashion design but also explore the benefits and versatility of Australian wool (see page 59). See wool4school.com
  • Learn About Wool – These classroom resources help teach primary and secondary students about the unique and natural benefits of Australian wool. See learnaboutwool.com

This article appeared in the December 2023 edition of AWI’s Beyond the Bale magazine. Reproduction of the article is encouraged.