The inaugural Fleece to Fashion Awards (F2F) is the beginning of the end for wool industry stalwart Liz Foster.
While she has no plans to retire just yet from her multi-decade career promoting the use of wool in the fashion industry, she does want to start showing the next generation how it is done.
“I’m mentoring Mary Carter and Lucy Virgona into my job,” Ms Foster said.
“It’s their first year, and it’s been a steep learning curve for them. You don’t realise how much of it is in your head until you begin to train people to take over.”
Ms Foster says she is going into semi-retirement after this year's event, but she will still stay on the F2F board.
Between us all we have more than 100 years of experience in the wool and fashion industry.Liz Foster
“Eventually Lucy and Mary will take over as the event coordinators,” she said.
“I will still be around to help, and the other board members will also be there to help them – between us all we have more than 100 years of experience in the wool and fashion industry.”
Lucy Virgona is a Sydney based designer working largely with print and colour, who won the Australian Wool Fashion Awards in 2015. Coming from a wool growing family, she spent her school holidays at her grandparent's merino property ‘Westvale’ in Wollun, just out of Uralla. She said her life has always been surrounded by sheep and wool talk.
“Mary and I have grown up together playing at 'Westvale' in our school holidays,” she said.
“It is so lovely that now, all grown up, we share the same passion for design and the merino wool industry and get to work together with Liz Foster's guidance on an event that celebrates both."
Lucy says she is passionate about promoting wool to emerging designers as well as consumers.
The event is aimed to bring the industry togetherLucy Virgona
“My collections have always featured wool and I do believe it is the most superior, sustainable and versatile fibre,” she said.
“Being part of the Fleece to Fashion team is important to me because I want to decrease the industry gap between wool growers, designers and consumers. The event is aimed to bring the industry together and provide a platform for young aspiring designers to get creative with wool and gain exposure. It is also extremely important to showcase the end of the supply chain in the place it all started. Holding the event in Armidale at the centre of superfine Merino production allows growers to see the end product that has come from all their hard labor. It really is an event inviting everyone to celebrate Merino wool.”
From a quiet upbringing on the land to an extremely fast-paced life in the city studying and working in fashion design, Mary Carter’s kept a connection to her home.
“The dream to be involved in bridging the divide of the woollen supply chain is closer than I would have ever imagined at my age,” she said.
“Being a past TAWFA entrant, I gained knowledge of the extensive process it takes to make a woollen garment, from the farm to the final product. I know first hand the amazing opportunity this provides to young aspiring designers. I have a better appreciation for wool’s diversity and versatility through designing and working with this unique fibre.”
Mary says she is endeavouring to redefine the wool fashion award event.
It definitely makes all of the hard work worth itMary Carter
“I want to raise awareness and understanding around the large amount of energy that goes into the growing and production of wool, in turn, increasing the overall value of the wool industry,” she said.
”I encourage emerging designers like myself to use this renewable fibre and develop a passion similar to Lucy’s and mine – which is an exciting adventure in itself. Being able to to create exciting possibilities and experiences for other young individuals like myself is something that makes me so proud and it is an added bonus to be working next to such an amazing fibre. It definitely makes all of the hard work worth it.”