Get to Know the 10 U.S. Woolmark Prize Finalists

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Photo: Courtesy

This week, 10 up-and-coming designers are vying to represent America in the International Woolmark Prize competition, a four-year-old contest that seeks emerging talent from all corners of the globe. The modern-day version of the prize, which has its roots in the 1950s (when the original recipients included Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld), has quickly become one of the most intriguing design competitions, singling out rising stars like the designers of Public School, M. Patmos, Rahul Mishra, and Christian Wijnants.

This year there will be regional finalists from six locations, who will be joined by one women’s wear and one men’s wear designer from America in the finals next February. So, as the games begin, let’s get to know our finalists...

For Women’s Wear

Chris Gelinas (pictured, above)
Design vision: “CG bridges the gap between technical innovation and classic femininity.”
Most inspired by: “My atelier, working with my hands.”
Daily uniform: “T-shirt and jeans.”
Career Plan B: “Florist.”
The pitch: “CG is all about textile development. I am a textile nerd and I spend the first three months of my development on the fabrics for my collections. Being part of a historic prize that is focused on innovating one of the oldest natural textiles was such a fun experience. I wanted to really push merino wool in a new direction, and break away from its more conventional applications.”

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Kaelen (designed by Kaelen Haworth)
Design vision: “Archival pieces with quiet power through clean shapes and innovative details.”
Can’t live without: “My dog Lola. She sleeps and snores on her mini chaise beside my desk most days.”
Who I look up to: “Raf Simons. I’m obsessed with him.”
Career Plan B: “Alpaca farmer. I’ve been reading a lot of Modern Farmer lately while I’ve been upstate and I am seriously dreaming of an alpaca farm. I’d make scarves, blankets, sweaters… just basically live the dream.”

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Nellie Partow
Design vision: “Creating from a place of authenticity and integrity: My heart.”
On my iPod: “I love music, one of my biggest sources of inspiration. The last 5 songs that I listened to are: The Cinematic Orchestra, All Things to All Men (feat. Roots Manuva); Arms and Sleepers, Warm; Parra for Cuva, Champa (featuring Monsoonsiren); Reconsider, The XX (Jamie xx Edit); and Dustin O’Halloran “Swings” – from the Breathe In soundtrack.
Most inspired by: “When I’m in the boxing ring. I was a competitive fighter for years. It clears my mind so that I can be creative.”
The pitch: “It’s an honor to be nominated for such a prestigious award. But the most important thing is to support these farmers and suppliers that help provide us with the material to create and innovate with this incredible natural fiber.”

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Novis (designed by Jordana Warmflash)
Design vision: “Audacious. Happy. Cultured. Ageless. Modern yet nostalgic. Fun.”
On my iPod: “Ripple” by Grateful Dead, “Under the Influence” by Elle King; “Burning Down the House” by the Talking Heads; “Dancing On My Own” by Robyn; and, of course, “Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift.
Most inspired by: “New York City! There is no place in the world as energetic, original, risk-taking and hungry as New York City!”
Who I look up to: “Oscar de la Renta. Oscar had a sense of proportion and understanding of the female form that were breathtaking and made women feel gorgeous. His construction and technique were awe-inspiring as well. I think about how and why he designed the way he did all the time. And I understand he was the quintessential mentor and friend.”
Career Plan B: “I’d still be a designer – just of buildings, not clothing. I have long thought my fascination with the construction of a garment (and joy in solving a construction problem), meticulous attention to finishing and prioritizing of a garment’s texture would have made architecture a great fit for me.”

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Tanya Taylor
Design vision: “Optimistic femininity bursting with color and texture.”
On my iPod: “Bette Davis Eyes” - Oliver North Boy Choir; “Trap Queen”- Fetty Wap; “King Kunta”- Kendrick Lamar; “Video Killed the Radio Star” - The Buggles; “Pretty Young Thing”- Michael Jackson
Most inspired by: “New cities inspire me. Recently I traveled to Kenya, Tanzania, and Morocco and was greatly inspired by their colorful cultures. I find people magnetic. New York never ceases to inspire.”
Can’t live without: “My team! I also have a special porcelain egg from Istanbul that hangs above my desk. It is meant to bring good luck and has been with me since I started the company. Having it overhead is always a comforting reminder of how much progress has been made in the past few years.”
Daily uniform: “My daily uniform is textured, energetic and colorful. I love to wear full skirts, tons of print mixing, graphic flats and vintage.”
The pitch: “Fabric experimentation is at the core of my brand, so innovation with merino is a thrilling challenge that augments my exploration with exciting materials and techniques. I am very passionate about knitwear and pushing the medium into new territories that are not only artful, but also commercially successful.”

For Men’s Wear

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Cadet (designed by Raul Arevalo and Brad Schmidt)
Design vision: “Clean lines for an aesthetic that honors classic military silhouettes.”
On our iPods: “Erykah Badu – Bag Lady; Jill Scott – Whenever You’re Around; U2 – Where the Streets Have No Name; Imagine Dragons – Radioactive; Sia – Elastic Heart”
Most inspired by: “The streets of New York in 1945-60 and 2015.”
Daily uniform: (Brad) “A Cadet Treaty T-shirt and Aviator Pants.”
(Raul) “A black Cadet Treaty T-shirt and Cadet Selvedge Denim.”
Career Plan B: (Raul) “I’m a beauty school and culinary school dropout. I think I would try to make furniture.”
(Brad) “I always wanted to be a backup dancer – no joke. Can you put me in touch with Beyoncé?” The pitch: “After 3.5 years of business and using merino wool in our collection, we thought we had something new and innovative to say in the men’s wear industry. We thought that the IWP was the perfect match to be experimental and push our creativity and interpret the Cadet style through merino wool.”

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David Hart
Design vision: “Nostalgic modernist futurism.”
Most inspired by: “The New York Public Library picture files.”
Can’t live without: “My vintage edition George Nelson desk.”
Daily uniform: “Suit and a T-shirt.”
The pitch: “I love working with merino wool. It’s the most versatile and luxurious fiber that I’ve worked with and it’s exciting for me to work with my mills and factory to develop new techniques with the fiber.”

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Lucio Castro
Design vision: “Uncanny, familiar, natural, ethical, fun, cinematic, narrative, playful, textured, refined.”
Most inspired by: “A movie theater.”
Who I look up to: “Miuccia Prada and Dries Van Noten.”
Career Plan B: “Filmmaker.”

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Siki Im
Design vision: “Quiet but strong, anthropological, modern, honest, high quality construction.”
Can’t live without: “A pen.”
Daily uniform: “Black pants, black top, black underwear, black socks.”
Career Plan B: “Baker.”
The pitch: “This is such a prestigious prize that a lot of my fashion design heroes have won. So I just tried.”

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Thaddeus O’Neil
Design vision: “A nomadic, poetic, accidental wabi-sabi logic. A sartortial mashup poem.”
Most inspired by: “The sea.”
Who I look up to: “Roy Halston, Charles James.”
Daily uniform: “My indigo bloomers and a tee shirt, a pair of Converse or Dr. Martens.”
The pitch: “I really wanted to take the opportunity to investigate wool very intimately and to experiment and envision new approaches of treatment and form. Also as my brand and aesthetic are very inspired by the sea, I wanted to reinvigorate and redefine the popular perception of wool in relation to water.”

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