We talk to Woolmark International Prize Winners, Public School and M. Patmos to learn about their design process and much more.
Harvey Nichols launched two exclusive collections recently from the prestigious 2014/15 International Woolmark Prize winners Public School and M. Patmos. The competition, judged by Victoria Beckham, iconic designer Paul Smith, and esteemed fashion critic Tim Blanks among others, gives winners financial sponsorship and the opportunity to design a wool-based collection to be stocked in world-class retailer Harvey Nichols.
Maxwell Osbourne and Dao-Yi Chow, the two New Yorkers behind super-hyped purveyors of downtown cool, Public School, took home the menswear prize – creating a collection which characteristically blends streetwear and sportswear to create pieces with a dark, futuristic note. Marcia Patmos’s eponymous brand, meanwhile, won the womenswear prize and created a travel-wardrobe collection that was chic but functional, making clothes that were full of unexpected and thoughtful details.
Wonderland sat down for a transatlantic chat with the winners to find out a little more about the collections they created.
How did it feel to win the prize?
PS: It feels great. We think that was a really big achievement of ours.
MP: Oh it feels amazing, super exciting.
Do you design with a particular person in mind?
PS: For men we design with ourselves in mind. For women she’s an extension of ourselves.
MP: Yeah you know I always have a certain woman in mind. But for the project I thought it was good to have something a little more focused, with a little story behind it. So it was a woman who was an architect and she was going on site visits throughout the world to maybe five or six different cities or different climates. She was going to be having to go to all kinds of work and social events, and I wanted her to be able to just feel great out of one suitcase. So the whole collection is in one suitcase, and all these mutual pieces that just mix and match together and a whole of them turn inside out which makes them even more versatile.
Do you feel you have an aesthetic that’s especially close to home?
PS: If you’re referring to NY then yes. We derive our inspiration from the people on the street. You walk the line of making it or failing every single second. It keeps you on the edge.
MP: *Laughs* I think so. Yeah.
You’re getting into some iconic international stores now – do you think about commercial viability when designing?
PS: Of course you have to think about how to push the boundaries consistently but at the same delivering something that people can wear and want to wear. It’s a delicate balance.
MP: I do, yes, of course. Even though this collection was kind a conceptual in that way they’re definitely pieces that could be part of my normal collection and could always be worn all the time.
Where did you begin to create your collection for Woolmark? What’s your creative process like can you talk to us a bit about that?
PS: We created a fictitious story about a lost civilization that depended on merino wool to survive. We designed a wardrobe for them that highlighted all the technical benefits of merino including moisture wicking and heat insulation and built a collection that would get them through all seasons.
MP: In my normal life, not just the Woolmark collection-life, all seasons are always overlapping and you’re always working on five different seasons at the same time, you’re always in production with one about to show another or just starting another so there’s never a clean finish of it in a way: especially because I have my own line that runs along with things from one season to the next. There’s usually a little bit of inspiration or something new or a colour palate that inspires each one. I definitely start to look at patterns ideas and I guess there are a few things that always happen at the same time. We start sketching and it’s a combination of the fabrics and deciding which things go with which and sometimes we look back at the things that we started that didn’t find their right home that we could resurrect or tweak or whatever.
What was your favourite part of making the collection and did you encounter any problems with it?
PS: Out favourite part was the development piece. Since we only had wool to work with we had to get creative in terms of finding new things to do with the wool, like boiling it, mixing different yarns together and needle punching. These were all new techniques for us. That was also the hardest part, testing everything and making sure it would withstand wear and tear as well as be production friendly.
MP: We didn’t have terrible problems but we had one or two because the collection is produced for such a small number of stores so there can be minimum order issues with certain things – we just had to deal with that a little bit. And some of the thing we used were very specialised so we had to do a lot of research to find all of these really interesting things that I had never seen before like merino wool elastic or this tulle fabric or whatever. So some of that was a bit of an issue and we had to get a few favours done!
So what was your favourite piece from the collection and why?
PS: Our favourite pieces were the compression leggings and pullover hood with circular knit patterns. When you think about wool you think big, chunky, heavy gauge sweaters. We wanted to turn that on its head and make something tight and close to the body.
MP: I love this white coat that’s our reversible travel coat – the one with the big blanket on it. It’s completely reversible inside and out so you get two coats in one. Up close it’s particularly beautiful as it’s completely hand finished and parts of it are leather trim. Basically its really easy to wear and chic.
Words: Benji Walters