Gabriela Hearst and Rochambeau Are the 2016/17 U.S. Woolmark Prize Winners

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Neil Rasmus/BFA/REX/Shutterstock (5775485bg)Josh Cooper, Laurence Chandler, Gabriela HearstInternational Woolmark Prize USA: Regional Awards 2016, La Sirena, New York - 19 Jul 2016
Photo: Neil Rasmus/BFA/REX/Shutterstock

Imagine being so talented that A-rate fashion notables like Jason Wu and Public School's Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne personally chose you to potentially follow in their indelible footsteps.

That's what a judging panel, which included the aforementioned experts, did Tuesday night at New York's La Sirena Restaurant where Joshua Cooper and Laurence Chandler of Rochambeau were selected as the U.S.A. Regional Finalists for the 2016/17 International Woolmark Prize for menswear and Gabriela Hearst took home the local gold in the womenswear category.

Competing with a pool of New York designers in their respective categories, the creative minds were tasked with carving together new looks that offered an exciting perspective on wool, Woolmark's pride and joy. The Rochambeau duo and Hearst will each receive approximately $37,000 ($50,000 Australian dollars), along with the opportunity to compete on an international platform in 2017.

Before the winners were announced inside the sun-kissed venue, guests like Wu, Kolb, and actress Malin Akerman mingled in anticipation and checked out a display of models sporting the creations of nominees like Sally LaPointe and of-the-moment brand, Monse. "My challenge was to make these pieces a little bit more towards the evening side, which I wanted to do," LaPointe told InStyle in anticipation of the news, explaining how she came to design a head-to-toe off-white ensemble.

"This [prize] has a particular focus on innovation and I think that makes it unique and interesting because it's challenging the designers to do something innovative, different, fresh, and really experiment with their design," CFDA President and CEO Steven Kolb told us before delving into why nominees like Nellie Partow and Hellessy, like all others, showcased their skills successfully. Supporting this young batch of talent was a no-brainer for Wu, a fellow judge: "Woolmark stands for one of the key materials that we use as industry professionals, so I think it's great that they can represent the industry and support designers that are up and coming."

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Neil Rasmus/BFA/REX/Shutterstock (5775485c)Malin AkermanInternational Woolmark Prize USA: Regional Awards 2016, La Sirena, New York - 19 Jul 2016
Neil Rasmus/BFA/REX/Shutterstock

Akerman arrived in a navy Hellessy frock and was on hand to support the brand's designer, Sylvie Millstein. "I met Sylvie last year and I've worn some of her garments before and she had asked if I wanted to come join tonight and I was very excited because I think she's brilliant," she told us. "I think fashion is art and this is somebody's artwork, and so to be able to wear it and support them is special."

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