by Stephen Garner
Joshua Cooper and Laurence Chandler of Rochambeau and Gabriela Hearst with models

Rochambeau and Gabriela Hearst have been announced as the winners of the 2016/17 International Woolmark Prize USA regional final, at an awards event held in New York last night, July 19.

A judging panel comprising André Leon Talley, Dao-Yi Chow, Julie Gilhart, Malcolm Carfrae, Marc Karimzadeh, Maxwell Osborne, Michelle A. Lee and Stefano Tonchi selected Rochambeau as the menswear winner. Gabriela Hearst was selected by André Leon Talley, Jason Wu, Julie Gilhart, Laura Brown, Robbie Myers, Malcolm Carfrae, Michelle A. Lee, Steven Kolb, Glenda Bailey and Stefano Tonchi as the winner for the womenswear category.

“All of the judges just really connected with the ease and authenticity and they also really appreciated that the Rochambeau boys pushed outside of their comfort zone,” explains Dao-Yi Chow. “From an innovation standpoint, working with wool, the fiber, and the silhouettes, it felt like they really took the challenge heads up and tried to do something new.”

Laurence Chandler and Joshua Cooper of Rochambeau were inspired by New York – particularly post-9/11 and the movement of artists that came to define the city in the aftermath of crisis. There was a certain outlaw, renegade approach to life that they worked to capture in their look.

The Rochambeau design duo commented: “From the moment we received the nomination, it has just been a tremendous honor for us to work with The Woolmark Company, aside from the competition and then us being pushed creatively, it has opened up different business avenues. It is our first award and we are so thankful for the Woolmark team for all their support and know that it is just an ongoing conversation.”

The winning design from Gabriela Hearst was made of a Cariaggi yarn of 14-micron ultrafine Merino wool and featured a herringbone stitch on the sleeve, with Jason Wu adding that: “I thought it was really great that Gabriela won. It just shows that she is really talented with a great point of view and is equally business savvy.”

Chosen from the most promising fashion design talent in the USA, both win AU$50,000 (approximately US$37,476), plus the opportunity to represent the USA in the prestigious global finals. In addition, each winner will receive mentoring support from a global panel of experts and will be granted a Woolmark license.

For the next six months, the winning designers will develop a capsule collection in Merino wool, to be showcased at one of the two extraordinary events that will highlight the six menswear finalists and six womenswear finalists from across the globe. The menswear final will be held during London Collections Men and the women’s in Paris, both in January 2017.

The winners of both global finals will receive a further AU$100,000 (approximately US$74,953) to assist with fabric sourcing and marketing of their collection, as well as mentoring from industry experts.