Sydney-based tailor P.Johnson has been awarded the Woolmark Prize for menswear, with Bianca Spender winning the prize for womenswear in the Australian region. After Strateas.Carlucci won a double award last year for both mens and womenswear, the bar was set very high for 2015, with Australian regional finalists including Celeste Tesoriero, Rebecca Vallance and Haryono Setiadi.
Each year, the Woolmark Prize captures some of the world's most outstanding, creative and innovative young designers. The brief is a set of new pieces that feature Merino wool. Launched in 1953, the prize was given to Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent, well before either designer became a household name.
Speaking at today's ceremony at the MCA, designer and judge Osman Yousefzada said this year's competition was especially close. "[The winning designs] are both tailoring orientated, which I like," says Yousefzada. "I love P. Johnson's story – the ease of tailoring; unstructured jackets with an Australian take on it. I thought it would work really well on an international scale."
Bianca Spender, daughter of Carla Zampatti, launched her own label in 2009. Spender's designs are known for a deft use of draping to create strong yet feminine silhouettes. The winning design was a light, beige suit with wide-leg pants and a double-breasted jacket, with a taupe, cropped jacket over the top. "I loved how she played with silhouettes; it's quite soft and romantic," Yousefzada says.
Patrick Johnson, who returned to Sydney from Rome only yesterday, was clearly delighted. "A lot of work went into this collection," he says. The winning ensemble was a casual, cream suit jacket with slim, navy pants. P. Johnson specialises in made-to-measure suits, a process that has been streamlined to the point where they can deliver high-quality suits for under $1000.
On working with wool, Johnson says, "The main thing I enjoy is its versatility. Just when you think you should put it in a corner, you find something new. It's durable, it breathes, it's amazing for tailoring."
To maintain your wool pieces, "Don't let them get too dry and don't wear them too often - have a rotation day in between. Wool is a natural fibre and it needs moisture," says Johnson.
The prize includes a contribution of $50,000 and a chance to compete in the international menswear finalists in Pitti Uomo, Florence, in January 2016. The womenswear finalists will meet in New York in February 2016.
"We'll use the prize money to further develop our range to win the international [prize]," Johnson laughs. We're going to use it to work with our weavers to develop different weaves of wool. We're really pushing this water-repellant, machine-washable completely unstructured suit idea."