Australia’s STRATEAS.CARLUCCI with a model dressed in one of their IWP creations.IN the year of the sheep, five designers from around the world will compete for the coveted International Woolmark Prize (IWP) in Beijing in March.

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 Australian design duo, STRATEAS.CARLUCCI.

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 on March 17 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.

Profile: STRATEAS.CARLUCCI How long have you been a fashion designer? Tell us about your label.

We have been designing for close to 10 years now, however the STRATEAS.CARLUCCI label is almost three years old. STRATEAS.CARLUCCI is a Melbourne-based clothing label, with a focus on quality tailoring and craftsmanship, construction, fabrication and functionality. With a strong International vision, our pursuit is continually push our personal and creative boundaries, and provide garments and a collection which displays it’s own unique vision.

What special challenges come with designing wool wear for women?

For our collection we wanted to show off the versatility of wool, and the various ways in which it can be used. Here we faced some challenges, as we wanted to create a very light-weight, sheer, almost “silk” quality. After much testing and developing, we were able to achieve an amazing quality.

How does your womenswear collection differ from your menswear entry?

Although the concept and the grounding was the same as the men’s, we developed more techniques of working with wool for the women’s collection. Our focus is tailoring, construction and texture, with a masculine-feminine duality, so we wanted to make sure the collection had certain femininity.

Who’s your style icon?

We love strong women. One of which is the impeccable Cate Blanchett who embodies our brand ethos: a powerful, feminine-masculine duality and modern with a classic sensibility. Another woman who possesses these attributes is French author / model / music producer / mother, Caroline De Maigret. She is effortlessly cool, sexy, intelligent, beautiful – but most importantly: a real person.

Why did you decide to enter IWP?

Once we received the nomination, we knew IWP was a great opportunity to showcase our collection to some of the industries most influential, and despite the outcome, be an amazing learning experience. Prior to working with Woolmark, a large portion of our collections were already using Australian Merino wool – so it was definitely inherent for us to take part in this amazing prize.

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

Our Woolmark collection is entitled “INDIGITAL” and we drew inspiration from the late Australian Indigenous artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye and is an extension of our regional entry.

Kngwarreye’s work was unique, in that her subject matter and iconography was deep rooted in the tradition of her tribe and people, however her painting style is a remarkable departure from traditional Aboriginal Indigenous art. Her style was best described as “gestural abstractionism” through her use of her fluid and unrestrained brush strokes, heavy applications and textured works. We were drawn to this idea of tradition vs modernity. This notion of tradition vs contemporary, led us to the exploration of further binary oppositions. We explored this idea in fabric; silhouette and the way the two ideas work together.

The development of the collection took some time, as there were so many elements. Once we had finalised all the fabrication, and all the techniques, the actually making of the garments didn’t take too long. It’s all the work beforehand which is very time consuming!

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

We worked with two main sources. One, an Australian Knitting factory based in Melbourne, and the other, a Japanese mill.

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

We wanted to explore the versatility of wool and showcase it used diversely through innovation and technique, however also to the garment and silhouettes we applied them too. Essentially we created three main areas – The classic (Tradition) which began with the wool fibre itself, The Contemporary (Technology) pushing innovation, The Hybrid – merging these two worlds.

Through this approach we created some new ways of working with wools and also through the application to the garments, creating interesting ways to wear them.

In our capsule, we created knitted garments, woven garments, and a hybrid of the two.

For the knitted garments, we created a 3D Knit, which was a mixture of welting and tucking, jacquards and other knitting techniques. This was created all via tedious and laborious digital programming, and took many attempts to get the right effect and balance of all the textures. This is also a very slow process – it takes about one hour to knit one metre. This was all developed here in Melbourne.

With the woven fabric, we worked with a mill in Japan to develop an amazing BAP resin coated yarn, which not only protects the wool, yet also enhances the natural properties of the fibre.

We created a hybrid knit, which was knitted, then laminated by using a stabilising fusing, which then could be used the same way a woven fabric could, through cut and sew, performing the opposite of what it is intended to become. Here, we could create minimal, and more rigid and tailored structures, where in it’s natural form, would never be able to achieve.

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

Yes – we have worked with wool for many years, in all different types of processes. Wool is versatile, it’s luxurious, and adaptable – no other fibre can do all those things. We have worked with wool for many years, in all different types of processes.

What would winning IWP mean for your label?

It would be a huge help for our growing label. It would financially be able to help assist the growth of our very small team, however more importantly it would catapult the labels vision of becoming an International brand. The most exciting part would be being able to sell our capsule collection in some of the world’s leading retailers, which will allow the brand to also grow commercially on a global scale.

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?

There is so much you can do with wool, so the current trends make it a very exciting time for the wool industry. As technology grows, so does the industry, and by adapting to these changes, and showcasing the many ways in which wool can be used, is the best way to encourage other designers.

Wool is so rich in history, and embedded into the story and growth of luxury fashion, however it’s the adaptation of that story for today’s designers which will be the next exciting frontier of the wool industry.

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