Anyone who remembers the old Woolmark symbol, which was big in the 1980s, is probably showing their age. But, quietly, the Woolmark concept has been growing old more gracefully than most of us and is about to leap, rejuvenated, back into high-fashion focus. The concept of Cool Wool – the fibre woven or knitted in weights that work beyond the winter season – has been around equally long, but now, due to modern fabric technology and innovative designer input, it is indeed cool in more ways than one.
When Woolmark opted to go lower profile, it carried on advising designers worldwide on the best fabrics to use, and developing the latest in wool technology. Now it feels it really has something to shout about: ultra-light, luxury merino wool produced to the finest specification so far, which can be woven or knitted to be comfortable, is easy to travel in and (as a natural fibre) is good at controlling temperatures even in warmer weather. As a result, it is launching two major initiatives. The first is a capsule collection of 22 pieces by four top British designers, whose imaginations have been caught by the yarn’s handle and versatility. Rather than create a separate range, the designers have filtered the pieces into their main catwalk collections as part of a co-ordinated look, but every item carries a distinctive Woolmark swing tag explaining the new fabric’s properties.
The pieces are typical of each designer’s style and vary from Jonathan Saunders’ slick red trouser suit and trenchcoat (first picture), through Richard Nicoll’s cool blue and green knits co-ordinated with spring skirts (second picture) and Mark Fast’s gauzy, on-trend metallic knitwear (third picture), to JW Anderson’s edgy mixes of graphic shape, ruffle and knit. The limited-edition pieces arrive in store and online at The Shop at Bluebird on Monday February 11, with prices from £280.
In one sense, this super collection is a curtain raiser for Woolmark’s second major initiative. The reconstituted International Woolmark Prize is back, on a global scale, worth £100,000 to a wool-using designer and with a judging panel including Donatella Versace, Victoria Beckham and Diane von Furstenberg, all of whom utilise wool in their spring collections. There are six regional finalists, from Europe, the US, India, China, Australia and Japan, and the winner will be announced on Saturday February 16, during London Fashion Week. The resulting special collection will be a hot ticket in stores come September.