Calling all groovers, shakers, emerging fashion makers and daring designers – the We the Makers Sustainable Fashion Prize has returned!
Every two years, the National Wool Museum and the City of Greater Geelong collaborate to bring We the Makers to the masses, celebrating the emerging world of sustainable fibre and textiles through the next generation of fashion designers.
The only Australian city to be designated a UNESCO City of Design, Geelong’s status as a creative city, its rich history of design excellence and its long legacy in the wool, fibre and textile industries is on show through We the Makers. “Geelong is one of the fastest growing cities in Australia and the [National Wool] Museum is currently in a transitional period as we broaden our focus to reflect the region’s 60,000-year living culture and history, from First Nations peoples to the emerging and advanced industries of today,” says Josephine Rout, the museum’s senior curator. “I believe that Geelong can and should become a centre of sustainable fashion.”
WE THE MAKERS, DESIGNER SHOWCASE 2020. IMAGE COURTESY OF NATIONAL WOOL MUSEUM, GEELONG
The centrepiece of this exciting event is the Sustainable Fashion Prize competition which challenges designers to create an original outfit that represents their personal design aesthetic and showcases their commitment to sustainable fashion.
“We the Makers is a significant competition with a prize that will help establish the career of a talented designer. It is the only sustainable fashion prize for emerging designers being offered in Australia and we expect the field to be very competitive,” Josephine says.
“This year the Sustainable Fashion Prize is focusing on attracting emerging designers and designers that have had a delayed start to their careers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
I believe that Geelong can and should become a centre of sustainable fashion.
The emerging designers’ careers may be bolstered by receiving the National Wool Museum Designer of the Year Award, which comes with a cash prize of $10,000, or the UNESCO City of Design, People’s Choice Award which carries a respectable $2000 reward.
The winners from 2020 are all currently successfully working in the fashion industry, shares Josephine. “The joint winners of the main prize were Rebecca Gully, who is a lecturer in the Bachelor of Branded Fashion Design at Torrens University, and Rowena, Juliana and Angela Foong who run the slow-fashion brand High Tea with Mrs Woo,” she says. “There were also the People’s Choice winners Amal Laala and Simon Piry of Broc The Kasbah collective and the Highly Commended Local Maker Courtney Holm of A.BCH.”
2020’s DESIGNER OF THE YEAR AWARD WINNERS: ROWENA, JULIANA AND ANGELA FOONG X UON’S SIX SEASONS (left) AND REBECCA GULLY’S NEUTRON DANCE; WHAT TO WEAR TO THE DISCO APOCALYPSE – SURVIVAL OF THE HOTTEST (right) IMAGES COURTESY OF NATIONAL WOOL MUSEUM, GEELONG.
Entries for the Sustainable Fashion Prize close on 16 April, so if you’re interested in applying your last chance is coming up fast!
“The most exciting aspect of doing a competition like this is the element of surprise – I have no idea what kind of entries we will receive!” shares Josephine. “I’m hoping to see bold, dynamic and exciting designs that are beautifully made and have a strong understanding of the materials used and a real commitment to all aspects of sustainable fashion.”
The outfits will be judged by a panel of industry professionals against categories of material innovation, circular process innovation, design innovation and business innovation.
“We’re looking for interesting materials, whether that be new bio-materials or an inventive reuse of old fabrics and fibres, whether the full lifecycle of the garment has been considered, what design features make this work more adaptively than others and what steps has the designer taken to ensure their business is sustainable, such as made-to-order models over wholesale,” Josephine continues.
The top twenty entries selected by the judges will be displayed at the National Wool Museum Designer Showcase for everyone to enjoy, from 1 June to 29 October.
WE THE MAKERS, DESIGNER SHOWCASE 2020. IMAGE COURTESY OF NATIONAL WOOL MUSEUM, GEELONG.
The curated group exhibition is a wonderful opportunity for those looking to sneak a peek at the fashion of the future and for the designers included, says Josephine.
“What makes [the National Wool Museum] an ideal venue for the prize is that we are able to provide some of the historical context for how and why the garment industry has got to this abysmal state. It’s vital that people know how, why and where their clothing is made and just how quickly some of the changes we have seen in the fashion industry have happened. The fashion industry is very good at talking about sustainability, but this is not always reflected in the work that is actually done.” Josephine reveals.
The fashion industry is very good at talking about sustainability, but this is not always reflected in the work that is actually done.
“Many companies are guilty of greenwashing, or pointing blame at others such as the consumer, and most of the work that they are doing in the sustainability sphere is merely treating an internal problem with a bandaid. It’s difficult not to be sceptical and view the industry as inherently flawed, but it is one with the most vested interest in ensuring that there is a future for fashion and one that does have creativity at its heart. I certainly have more hope in the next generation of designers who are taking these matters far more seriously and for whom sustainability is more than a trend, it’s an essential part of their practice.”
NATIONAL WOOL MUSEUM, DENNYS LASCELLES WOOL STORE 1872-2023. IMAGE COURTESY OF NATIONAL WOOL MUSEUM, GEELONG.
The National Wool Museum lives in a beautiful, 150-year-old bluestone woolstore near Geelong’s waterfront. Opened in 1988 by Queen Elizabeth II, it bills itself as “Australia’s only comprehensive museum of wool” which may be a more contested title than you might originally anticipate. Since the arrival of sheep with the First Fleet in 1788, the wool industry has dominated the Australian economy, agriculture and landscape. Geelong is in many ways a city synonymous with wool and the wool industry, once known as the “wool centre of the world”.
“This project really builds on the heritage of the museum, its collections and our values,” Josephine expounds. “While wool is one of the most sustainable fibres, being completely natural, renewable and biodegradable, the industry itself is not and is particularly questionable regarding animal ethics. The National Wool Museum does not shy away from difficult aspects of the Australian wool industry’s history as we examine the impact it has had on Indigenous cultures and the environment, while at the same time championing the more recent innovations to improve the industry.“