Making his mark with wool
Garth Cook. Picture: Matt Jelonek/The West Australian

The Woolmark Company recently announced the Australian nominees for the third International Woolmark Prize, which has become one of the most coveted and prestigious fashion awards in the world.

Five regional awards are held - in Asia, Europe, US, India/Middle East and Australia - and the winners from each regional division go on to contest the final in London in January 2015 (for menswear) and Beijing in March 2015 (for womenswear). Regional winners receive $50,000 towards the development of their next collection, while the overall winner receives an additional $100,000 plus representation in major international retailers Harvey Nichols (UK), Joyce (China), Saks (US), Colette (France), 10 Corso Como (Italy), David Jones (Australia) and online at mytheresa.com.

Perth designer Garth Cook has been nominated for the Australian division of the womenswear category alongside Phoenix Keating, Karla Spetic, Strateas.Carlucci, Michael Lo Sordo and Tristan Melle.


  • What does it mean to you to be the first Perth designer to be nominated for the International Woolmark Prize? *

I have been following the International Woolmark Prize and it has been a personal goal of mine to be nominated one day. When I found out about the nomination I was overjoyed and relieved, I guess. Relieved mainly because I felt confident that the nomination body are looking for new designers from Australia, not just from Sydney or Melbourne. It has been said that designing in Perth is a disadvantage; hopefully the nomination will not only highlight my work but the work of our talented fashion designers working from Perth.


  • Can you tell me a little bit about the nomination process, what do you have to do now that you are nominated for the prize? *

Designers are not able to apply for the Woolmark process - you have to be nominated by a panel that is independent of the International Woolmark Prize.

Since the nomination I have been preparing for the panel assessment in Sydney on July 16, where I have to show one full piece that is constructed from 80 per cent merino wool along with six illustrations of the whole capsule collection. I also have to include merino wool fabric swatches and be able to talk about my concept and the development of the collection.


  • How did you feel when you found out you had made the finals of the Australian womenswear division? *

Really excited and nervous at the same time! I am so grateful for this opportunity. The collection I have designed is very true to my idea of design and I have been able to see the idea through without feeling I have to compromise the concept.


  • What would you use the $50,000 for if you win the regional division? *

The $50,000 would be used to develop the full collection that would then be shown in Beijing in 2015. The prize would also go towards growing the business through sales and marketing.


  • Tell me about the use of natural fibres throughout your collections. What does it mean to you to create a collection that incorporates naturally Australian-grown merino wool for the competition? *

I have loved creating a collection that focuses entirely on merino wool. Merino is predominately farmed in Australia and then developed into fabric offshore. It is great to know that the raw product from a beautiful fabric started here. Merino wool is so versatile, either as a knit or a woven. It feels good to design with a high-quality fabric that has the potential to last up to 30 years or so. I think longevity is important in fashion design.


  • What are your plans for the label generally in the next 12 months? *

To grow the business, continue to work with stores and find the right business partner to bring in. It's time now. If I happen to win the Australian round then I will be producing my Woolmark collection as well as working on summer production, autumn-winter 2015 and thinking about a new summer collection. There will be a lot going on! I'll also continue to lecture at the Central Institute of Technology in Northbridge.


  • The other international category winners have also been announced. How much do you know about the designers from the other regions? *

Not a lot, to be honest! But I have been researching the nominated womenswear designers from each region. It's great to see who has been nominated and why. It is a diverse group of designers and I am happy to see that there are mostly emerging brands. It fits the spirit of the Woolmark prize perfectly.

The West Australian

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