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Cottweiler win this year’s International Woolmark PrizeCourtesy of the International Woolmark Prize

Cottweiler on winning a major fashion prize

The design duo snatched this year’s International Woolmark Prize alongside womenswear designer Gabriela Hearst

It was at the Palais de Tokyo during Paris couture last month that a series of influential industry members – including Michèle Lamy, Hood by Air’s Shayne Oliver and Dazed co-founder Jefferson Hack – gathered to reveal winners of this year’s International Woolmark Prize. Talented designers from around the world were tasked with incorporating Merino wool – the signature textile of The Woolmark Company – into their own designs. After much deliberation, the winners were announced as London design duo Cottweiler and American designer Gabriela Hearst, both of whom will receive support to expand their businesses as a result of the award.

Over the last few years, Cottweiler’s Ben Cottrell and Matthew Dainty have emerged as some of the most innovative designers in menswear, developing a singular vision rooted in the worlds of digital art, sportswear fetishism and weirdly inane things like patio furniture. It was important for them to convey this visual identity throughout the challenge – “We wanted to present signature Cottweiler in terms of the look,” they explain, “so inspirations came from the archive and we used those pieces using Merino wool, updating and improving them to fit into the context of the competition.”

Victory in the womenswear department went to Gabriela Hearst, a designer renowned for mixing the influences of her childhood in Uruguay with those of her current life in New York. For Hearst, the award carried special resonance due to her own family history. “It has a special meaning to me as a Merino grower myself,” she says. “Wool has been supporting my family for generations. Also, the recognition from such a prestigious award gives me further confidence that I am heading in the right direction.”

“We worked closely with our mills to find fabric that kept our aesthetic but also fulfilled the brief – we were very conscious of not losing that” – Cottweiler

Perhaps most importantly, both winners managed to create something truly innovative by re-imagining the wool in new, inventive ways. Hearst is already well-versed in Merino and uses it often in her collections – she reveals that the top seller from her recent Cruise collection was made from the textile – but, for this particular challenge, she was keen to show that wool could be viable as both a utilitarian, sports-ready fabric and as a luxury textile. “I wanted to challenge the concept of wool being itchy or only suitable for your grandmother’s sweater,” she argues. 

As for Cottweiler, the duo worked hard to convey their own visual identity in the competition pieces. For them, this led to a process of textile innovation which eventually resulted in them bonding a waterproof fabric to a Merino jersey – a seamless fusion of man-made and natural fibres. “We worked closely with our mills to find fabric that kept our aesthetic but also fulfilled the brief – we were very conscious of not losing that.”

The collaborative collections will be stocked in some of the world’s most prestigious department stores and boutiques including Harvey Nichols, Lane Crawford, and

In celebration of this year’s award The Woolmark Company released ‘Unravelled’, a unique fashion mockumentary written, directed and starring Isaac Lock. Watch a trailer below.