Beirut-based designer Rayya Morcos is the founder of IWP 2015 finalist Bird on a Wire.IN the year of the sheep, five designers from around the world will compete for the coveted International Woolmark Prize (IWP) in Beijing on March 17.

The finalists will show their Merino wool collections to an extraordinary jury of leading global designers and fashion industry heavyweights.

FarmOnline and Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) will bring you profiles of each of the finalists each week in the lead-up to the grand final. This week the spotlight falls on Lebanese contender, Bird on a Wire.

AWI and The Woolmark Company chief executive, Stuart McCullough, said the IWP showcased the versatility and quality of Merino wool to consumers and the fashion and textile industries.

He said over the past two years of the initiative it had generated more than $105 million in editorial value, and the expansion into menswear for the award this year – won by New York’s hip label Public School – signified its strength and impact on the fashion industry.

The womenswear award will be judged by a panel which includes: style icon Victoria Beckham; Angelica Cheung – editor-at-large, Vogue China; Franca Sozzani – editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, L’Uomo Vogue Italia and, editorial director of Condé Nast Italia, and Goodwill Ambassador for Fashion 4 Development for the UN; and Colin McDowell, as well as Anita Barr, Harvey Nichols; Collen Sherrin, Saks Fifth Avenue; Justin O’Shea, mytheresa苏州美甲美睫培训学校; Malcolm Carfrae, Ralph Lauren; Cristina Ventura, Joyce; Sophie Clark, David Jones, and Shinji Kakakita, Isetan.

The IWP is an exclusive showcase of wool fashion, with entry by invitation only via regional nomination bodies made up of industry committees, councils and media.

Profile: Bird on a Wire How long have you been a fashion designer? Tell us about your label.

I initially studied Interior Design then after graduating from that in 2003, I moved to Fashion Design. I worked as a senior designer for Maison Rabih Kayrouz for five years and in 2012 launched my brand Bird on a Wire.

Since my background is architectural, I build my designs in a three-dimensional way and draw them only when they’re done.

Bird on a Wire is a design house that is open to designing anything as long as we try to push the horizon and add something new whether in the way it is built, its function or adding technology to it.

Why did you decide to enter IWP?

I didn’t! I was nominated and was going to drop out because at the time I was working part time with a lighting company on sustainable materials research. IWP didn’t encourage this drop out so I reconsidered and I’m very glad I did!

What inspired your capsule collection? Tell us about your entry.

The collection draws its inspiration from the idea that each individual builds a bubble of different beliefs and moral ethics around them and is called My Name Is God.

The idea was to create a collection of pieces of clothing that have no name, annihilating the pieces called “dress” “shirt” “jacket” “skirt”.

It’s hard to tell how long a collection takes to produce since the process of design is ongoing and if it’s about production in itself it doesn’t take very long, it’s just about the research and the trials and errors, that’s what takes time mainly.

Where did you source the wool from for your IWP garments?

The wool we used comes from different sources. The worsted fabrics come from Dormeuil in England and Alfred Brown. The jersey from Australia, from Merino State and the yarn from Lang Yarn.

What processes were involved in the garments you produced for IWP?

In Lebanon we’re known for hand embroidery and all kinds of artisan work, we’re very good at that so we used that to our advantage, but in a more modern and ready-to-wear way by using hand knitting, thread embroidery and a method of aging fabric usually used on leather and giving it a worn out effect.

Prior to IWP had you worked with wool before? How does working with wool compare to working with other natural fibres?

I’ve never worked with Merino specifically but I usually work with natural fibres such as wool, cotton and silk. With Merino wool I felt like I got the three-in-one: I have the silky touch and fluidity of silk, the practicality of cotton and the warmth of wool.

What would winning IWP mean for your label?

IWP is definitely the key to bringing the brand to the international market. It’s a stepping stone to becoming recognized and sold around the world and with no doubt would give Bird on a Wire credibility.

What do current trends on runways around the world mean for the wool industry? And what do you think would encourage greater use of wool by designers?

I believe that trends, and not only in the fashion world, are going back to ethical and natural products. We want better living, organic food, environmentally friendly architecture, etc. and in fashion it’s no different!

Going back to natural fibres is a must and the beauty of Merino wool is its diversity and its very modern and practical use since it breathes and adapts and comes in so many textures and materials.

It’s such a diverse and beautiful fibre with endless choice of textures and what would encourage designers to use it are the fabric manufacturers who should make it more accessible to the market in many different modern choices.

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