Designer Gabriela Hearst hails from Uruguay and is based in New York. Coincidentally, the winner of the 2016/17 International Woolmark Prize Womenswear winner grew up on a sheep farm. Fusing her love for all things wool and her love for fashion, she launched her fashion label in 2015, creating a brand that focuses on knitwear and has made sleek silhouettes using wool her trademark look.
Her winning collection, inspired by the WW2 Italian journalist, author and political interviewer Oriana Fallaci and featured a range of utilitarian yet sophisticated styles of trench coats, cycling trousers, one-piece long johns, reversible puffer vest and an evening dress. All her pieces are made out of ultra-fine 14.5 micro and 21.5 micro Merino wool that has a luxurious velvet touch.
What did winning the International Woolmark Prize mean for the Gabriela Hearst brand?
It has such deep personal meaning, and I wish my father and grandfather were here to see this. Sheep and wool were an integral part of their lives as ranchers. From a designer perspective, it is an honour be recognised by the industry. This award means a lot to me as I believe wool is an amazing fibre, and it has supported my family for so many generations.
The recognition from winning such a prestigious award has benefited our business tremendously. The exposure to industry experts and top-tier retailers is a significant asset. With the prize money, we invested in an E.R.P. (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, which will help with efficiency and sustainability in all aspects of our business. I believe luxury can and should be produced without wastefulness. It is a real honour to have the opportunity to represent and promote the use of Australian Merino in our industry.
How did working on the collection shape or change the way you work with wool?
I wanted to showcase not only the functionality of wool, but also the fact that it can be ultra-luxurious. Consumers have the misconception that wool can be itchy, but I wanted to show the alternative. I aimed to perfect a 14-micron yarn in 16 gauge. The result is super soft.
Can you explain more about the concept behind your winning collection?
The collection was very clear from the start in my mind. I first wanted to show the luxurious side of wool by making the knit pieces extra light and soft. I also sought to demonstrate the utilitarian side of wool within a fashion perspective. The use of Merino wool in high-performance sports is becoming prevalent as people recognise its inherent advantages so I made a baseball jacket and a reversible puffer vest for the collection. Wool has benefited humans for thousands of years, and its qualities make it a fibre for the future.
How did you innovate with and use Merino wool in this collection, and what are the benefits of it in this context?
I wanted to be luxurious but not wasteful. Part of the collection is made with already existing fabrics. We found two extremely luxurious Loro Piana fabrics with limited stock, making the collection both sustainable and exclusive since many pieces will be limited edition.
Who inspires you as a designer?
Strong women are always the main inspiration for my designs. Women like as Cecile Richards, Kamala Harris and Tammy Duckworth inspires me with their intelligence and efforts for the service of others.