The beauty and versatility of Australian wool will be celebrated in Armidale next month, as budding designers of all ages from across the nation showcase their talents in the inaugural Fleece to Fashion Awards (F2F).
F2F is a not-for-profit organisation, which aims to promote the use of wool in all its dimensions, and all stages of production, says awards board member, Liz Foster, who was previously managing director of The Australian Wool Fashion Awards (TAWFA) for more than 30 years. The F2F group formed to fill a gap as the TAWFA has not run any awards since 2015.
“This event is set to change people’s perspectives about wool’s place in the fashion industry and along the way we hope to discover new emerging designers,” Ms Foster said.
“While there will be entries lodged by non-student and home/hobby sewers, we expect secondary school students along with TAFE, design college and university students will make up the bulk of entrants.”
There are 100 secondary schools on the F2F database, with whom it works closely.
“Our aim is to educate and encourage textile students in the wonderful qualities of wool,” Ms Foster said.
“We support them by providing two metres of fabric – this year it was wool jersey - to allow them to design and make a creation for the competition.”
“Once they work with woollen fabric we hope they will think of using wool for future major works.”
Ms Foster said the awards also provided an avenue for young emerging designers studying at a tertiary level - many of whom choose to use wool in creating their ‘end-of-year’ collections – to showcase their work with the potential to not only win prizes and cash but also an internship with an established Australian designer.
“A win here could be the first step up the ladder to a career in fashion,” Ms Foster said.
As a former woolgrower herself, Ms Foster, is keen to see the wool industry support the awards, as is the chairman of the F2F board, Lachlan Fulloon, a Merino wool grower and seed stock producer, Cressbrook Merino stud, Dangarsleigh via Armidale.
“With our focus on the promotion of wool in the fashion industry, we’re appealing to woolgrowers across the nation to make tax-deductible donations to the Fleece to Fashion Awards,” Mr Fulloon said.
“With the right support, we would acknowledge this support through a name change to the competition – to New England Woolgrowers Fleece to Fashion Awards or if we get donations from further afield it would become Australian Woolgrowers Fleece to Fashion Awards.”
Celebrity judges will be prominent Australian designers, Akira Isogawa and Charlie Brown, who will be joined on the judging panel by freelance journalist Emma Downey.
The designers will focus on the technical and aesthetic quality of the garments, while Ms Downey will judge from a subjective consumer standpoint.
The F2F awards will be judged in seven sections: secondary school students, young emerging designers (for tertiary level students), race wear, active/outdoor wear, sustainable wearable art (using recycled materials), evening wear, and bridal.
To qualify for entry, the garments in each section must contain at least 80 per cent Australian Merino content.
The winner of each section will then go forward for the chance to win the supreme title, and $5000 in cash or prizes. Each section also offers $900 for first place and $600 for second in either cash or prizes, which can include a sewing machine.
Ms Foster said the awards were drawing national attention, with 100 entries to date already lodged from designers in Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia, and Queensland, as well as from across NSW, while there had also be an entry received from New Zealand.
Among the early entries from NSW are designs from a number of students from New England Girls’ School and O’Connor Catholic College in Armidale.
Judging will take place on Friday, July 6.
Entrants will be given the opportunity to dress models in their designs and have them paraded down the catwalk before the judging panel.
A cocktail evening will follow the judging to allow entrants the chance to meet with the judges.
The inaugural F2F awards will be staged at the Astra Arts Centre, at PLC Armidale during a gala evening on July 7, from 6pm.