The Woolmark Company is the global authority on wool. The company highlights Australian wool’s position as the ultimate natural fibre and premier ingredient in luxury apparel.
The Exchange: Malaysia
Designer Bernard Chandran
Bernard chose to create his design in fine ‘songket’ – a royal Malay brocade, handwoven and patterned with gold and silver threads. He drew inspiration from Malay ‘kerawang’ – a style of traditional embroidery that involves cutting away the base-cloth to create a lace effect, contemporising the look with a geometric feel. The strapless dress is carefully structured and the floor-length coat is embroidered with wool yarn.
The Exchange: Brunei x Singapore
Designer Na Forrer x Artisans Lully Selb
In celebrating this collaboration between Singapore and Brunei, the focus was on the evolution of the modern Malay woman, as it is a symbol of a shared history and identity. For this project, Na Forrér created an evening dress known as a “Baju Kebaya” - a common traditional womenswear worn by Malay women from Brunei and Singapore during formal events and festivities. The corset of the dress was made from 100% wool crepe.
The Exchange: Cameroon x United Republic of Tanzania
Designer Kibonen New York x artisan Makory Mgece
The gown designed by Kibonen is made from lightweight Woolmark certified wool, trimmed with Maasai beading from Mgece Makory in Tanzania. Intricate embroidery features on the patterned Toghu cloth, traditionally worn by rulers of the North West region of Cameroon.
The Exchange: Nigeria x Malawi
Designer NKWO x artisan Joel Suya
NKWO created a look with organic British wool. Her design, named ‘Spirit of the Dance’, is made from Aso Oke, a hand-loomed cloth woven by a group of women based in Kogi state, central Nigeria. The piece was inspired by a secretive religion indigenous to Malawi, called Nyau. During a special ceremony, attendees wear wooden masks and act out spirits of the dead, in order to communicate with them.
The Exchange: Sierra Leone x Ghana / The Gambia
Designer Sydney-Davies x artisans Big Dread Kente / Ousman Toure, Continent Clothing
Sydney-Davies and Big Dread Kente worked together to create a natural raffia-fringed hand-woven kente cloth midi skirt with recyclable plastic blocking, and a bralet top embellished with Swarovski upcycled crystals in queen bee motifs. The outfit is completed with an oversized bardot wrap jacket made from hand-woven gold kente cloth, hand-woven country cloth, and 100% wool, and a handmade necklace and bracelet crafted by Ousman Toure in The Gambia.
The Exchange: New Zealand x Cook Islands
Designer Karen Walker x artisans Kuki Airani Creative Mamas
Karen Walker worked with a community of tivaivai craftswomen from the Cook Islands, now resident in New Zealand. Her dress is made from dusty pink Italian wool flannel and is covered in claret-coloured tivaivai embroidered flowers. The flowers are iconic flora of the Māmās’ island home and include gardenia, jasmine, orchid, fruit salad plant, hibiscus, fringed hibiscus, red ginger, frangipani and the Cook Islands national flower, Tiare Māori. Added to these are the beloved Karen Walker daisies. The 10 plant varieties are brought to life with 12 different traditional stitch styles.
The Exchange: Australia x Solomon Islands
Designer KITX x artisans Pasifik Creations
The gown created by KITX has a bodice and skirt made from lightweight GOTS certified organic crepe wool sourced from a Woolmark approved mill, overlaid with a traditional straw skirt from the Solomon Islands and embellished with trochus shell beads made by hand by a cooperative of women expert at this ancient craft.
The Exchange: UK
Burberry designed a look using the highest quality Oeko-Tex certified Australian Merino wool to create a reimagined trench coat, accompanied by woollen trousers made with Oeko-Tex certified yarns. The suppliers and manufacturers involved in creating the look are part of Burberry’s 2020 project, involved in capacity building programmes encompassing training relating to ethical performance, audits, chemical management practices, and adhering to Burberry’s code of conduct.
The Exchange: Malta x India
Designer Charles and Ron x artisan Khushboo
Charles & Ron created a look of Woolmark certified wool crepe, with a full, floor-length skirt embellished with beaded appliqué Maltese door-knockers. The coordinating blouse features Maltese lace, and a Maltese hand-tooled leather belt completes the look.
The Exchange: Canada x Namibia
Designer Lucian Matis x artisans Omba Arts Trust
Lucian Matis created a gown made with a wool blend fabric, and embellished with black Swarovski upcycled crystals, inspired by the most recent oil spill in the East China Sea and the destruction caused to our oceans and ecosystems. To accompany the gown, a classic roll necklace was created by three Ju/’hoansi groups living in the eastern region of Namibia. The method for creating the beads is believed to date back 60,000 years, using ostrich eggshells that are broken in to small pieces, clipped into circles and pierced with a hole. The beads have been heated to create different colours, from a pale grass tone through to black.
The International Woolmark Prize
In 1953 the IWS Prize was established. This coveted award recognised excellence and innovation in fashion and promoted wool in its most pure form – natural and luxurious. This was the original incarnation of the International Woolmark Prize.
The International Woolmark Prize celebrates outstanding fashion talents from around the globe who showcase the beauty and versatility of Merino wool.
The award was won in 1954 by iconic fashion designers Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent.
The company's role in the fashion industry
The Woolmark Company works with textile and fashion industries at every level, developing better wool textiles and driving consumer demand. The Woolmark Company’s relations with the fashion world also makes it well-placed to nurture fresh talent in fashion design.
This content has been specifically curated for the Google Arts & Culture platform on behalf of the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange exhibition that launched on the 19th of February at Buckingham Palace in partnership with Swarovski, The Woolmark Company and MATCHESFASHION.COM.
The project, created and managed by Eco-Age, with the support of The Commonwealth Fashion Council and The British Fashion Council.
More information about the images is available by clicking on them.
Read more about the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange at http://eco-age.com/commonwealth-fashion-exchange/