The countdown is officially on for next Friday’s 2014 International Woolmark Prize final. Hosted at Milan’s Museo Della Triennale, the final will see Australia’s own designer-of-the-moment, Christopher Esber, compete alongside four other designers from across the globe; ffiXXed (Berlin), Sibling (London), Rahul Mishra (India) and perhaps most notably, Altuzarra (USA).

Charged with highlighting the beauty of Merino wool via their own unique vision, each brand will present a tightly edited collection of six ‘looks’ to a highly revered panel of judges – Frida Giannini (creative director, Gucci), Tim Blanks (editor-at-Large, Style.com) and Franca Sozzani (editor-in-chief Vogue Italia), to name a few. The winner will receive $AUD 100,000 in prize money as well as the chance to be stocked in some of the world’s leading retailers.

Fortunately for Esber, working with wool comes naturally; “I am very heavy handed and have trouble doing a light collection so wool is ideal. This collection will be more of a moodier, darker and more wearable version of my initial (regional final) collection,” explains the designer. The colour palette is black, charcoal, a ‘dirty’ salmon and a chalk colour set against Esber’s signature clean lines, loose tailoring and attention to detail.

A recent sourcing trip to Milan in preparation for the final turned out to be highly successful. Meeting with local wool mills and exploring both traditional and modern techniques of manufacturing such as tapestry, carpet making and waterproofing, gave Esber a greater understanding of the fabric itself and its endless possibilities. The streets of Milan also provided endless sartorial inspiration. “Everyone is impeccably dressed, everything is hemmed perfectly and it is very competitive. It made me realise that I wanted to do something more Australian and more laid-back, yet still luxurious”.

Like Dion Lee before him, there is significant pressure on Esber but he’s got that under control. “I’m a bit nervous, I’m not going to lie, but it is amazing that my brand is going to be put in front of these incredible judges. All I can do is show and hope for the best.”

The International Woolmark Prize (IWP) final event will be hosted in Milan during Fashion Week will be on the evening of February 21, 2014 at the Museo Della Triennale.

For more information on the prize see woolmarkprize.com.