Woolly Innovations
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Wool has become a fabric for all seasons and its versatility is a great inspiration for fashion designers.

It is an outdated notion to think of wool as heavy, hairy and only suitable for winter. Today’s wool can be woven into threads with a fine, silky texture that is smooth and light to the touch. Hong Kong designers are lucky that the world’s first Wool Resource Centre was opened by The Woolmark Company in Kwun Tong in April 2016, where they can find the latest information about Australian Merino wool from fabric suppliers around the world.

The merits of wool cannot be stated enough. It can be woven into fabrics of varying textures to suit any seasonal or functional needs. It is anti-crease, anti-odour and above all, a sustainable material that is renewable.

It also makes clothes that feel truly high-end and luxurious.

Mr Brian Tam, Project Manager, Fashion & Marketing HK of the Woolmark Company, explains that Woolmark is here to help designers navigate the latest wool trends and innovations. One example is the Wool Lab, a seasonal guide to the best wool fabrics and yarns in the world. It showcases samples of commercially available fabrics aligned to the season’s macro-themes that encompass everything from formal wear to sportswear.

“It's a creative, time-saving tool for designers. The fabric swatches are coded so they can very easily find information on the manufacturer and order sample yardage. Once they’ve visited the Wool Lab, they can start product development right away,” says Mr Tam.

For Autumn/Winter 2018-19, the Wool Lab has come up with seven themes that cover bespoke to casual wear, from post-industrial British style to colourful tribal looks. Wool can also be made into denim, a recent innovation that has been picked up by high-end labels such as Max Mara and Raf Simons.

“To make wool as tough as denim, a lot of technical difficulties had to be overcome especially in the washing process. Now you can really get the different wash effects with wool denim, which can contain anything from 100% wool to lower depending on what you want to use it for. It can even be made into a formal blazer,” he adds.

Max Mara and Woolmark have teamed up to develop an innovative Wool Denim line for its Autumn/Winter 2017 collection, utilising innovative 100% wool denim fabrics that replicate the look and style of denim but have added benefits thanks to the natural qualities of Merino wool, including increased softness and warmth, along with its ability to resist wrinkles. The resulting collection has pushed the boundaries on the traditional uses of wool – such as fine tailoring, heavy coats and knitwear – to showcase a different approach for the fibre and celebrate its innate versatility.

In a collaboration with Woolmark, Lane Crawford has additionally launched two new athleisure capsule collections under the theme of “FitnessxFashion” designed by independent designers Helen Lee and Particle Fever.

A former fashion designer who has worked in senior positions for US, Hong Kong and Korean fashion labels, Tam also helps up-and-coming designers gain international exposure through the Woolmark network. Every year he works with the Hong Kong Fashion Designers Association to nominate a Hong Kong representative for the International Woolmark Prize (IWP), a prestigious fashion design competition previously won by Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent in the 1950s.

Brian Tam, Project Manager (Fashion & Marketing), The Woolmark Company

Nominees of IWP2017 (Asia Region)

Hong Kong designer Six Lee was named menswear winner at the Asian regional final of IWP 2017 in Seoul this July, and will be competing at the global final next year. The eventual winner will receive a further AU$200,000 to assist with fabric sourcing and marketing of their collection.

Tam will serve as a judge for the Hong Kong Young Fashion Designers’ Contest 2017 this September. The first runner-up will receive a Woolmark sponsored trip to Australia to experience the manufacture of wool fabrics from sheep rearing to spinning, visit wool auctions and meet with local fashion institutes and suppliers.

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