New Yorker Marcia Patmos takes women's International Woolmark Prize

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 April, 2015, 6:06am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 April, 2015, 6:06am

The International Woolmark Prize is one of the fashion industry's most respected competitions. With entries from more than 60 designers in 21 countries this year, it provides an opportunity of a lifetime for many designers.

The initiative, created by Australian Wool Innovation, challenges young designers to study wool and use it in ways that push its boundaries and capabilities. In doing so, the initiative hopes to sustain growth for the Australian wool industry.

The top competitors included VMajor from the mainland, Augustin Teboul from Germany, Australian brand Strateas. Carlucci, and Bird on a Wire from Lebanon, and after an intense judging session with a panel that included Angelica Cheung, editor-in-chief of Vogue China, acclaimed fashion critic Colin McDowell and fashion designer Victoria Beckham, Woolmark announced New York's Marcia Patmos, founder of M.Patmos, as the winner in the women's division.

Patmos' collection was a laid-back affair, featuring luxurious knits laden with texture and patterns. Models strutted down the catwalk with cosy beanies, snug pants and parkas. The collection also stayed true to the designer's love of neutral tones with small pops of graphic colour.

"Patmos embodied best what the [prize] stands for," Beckham says. "The collection was well executed and the concept interesting." McDowell agrees, stating that "it was a very sophisticated collection ... that [was] elegant but also young in spirit."

Patmos had garnered industry praise before this well-earned Woolmark victory. She won the Ecco Domani Fashion Fund Award in 2011 and her label was named one of Fast Company magazine's "Top 50 Most Innovative Fashion Companies in the World". It's not hard to see why: her collections display an intuitive eye for proportion and balance, with designs that are luxuriously unpretentious and approachable.

Also, Patmos' design philosophy has always reflected an affinity for the natural world. She uses sustainable manufacturing and sourcing methods in her business operations. And before setting up her current label, she created Lutz & Patmos, a brand with a strong focus on cashmere knits. All of these elements are indicative of a designer who already possesses an intimate knowledge of natural fibres and would intuitively understand how to rework wool to her advantage.

Patmos won A$100,000 (HK$591,000), and her range will be stocked from August in premium stores worldwide, including Joyce in Hong Kong and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York.

Patmos' victory confirms New York as a hotbed for burgeoning creative designers who have the skills and ambition to make it big. The city's fashion week has an abundance of talented young designers in an overcrowded schedule. In January, Woolmark awarded its menswear division prize to New York label Public School.

The fashion market is now awash with aspiring designers hoping to make a name for themselves, and this competition helps to separate the wheat from the chaff. In addition, the prize injects money into talented labels in what is a capital-intensive business.