Can you feel the tension building? Tonight, this years International Woolmark prize will be awarded, the winner gaining not just global fame but fortune too 100,000 Australian dollars, to be precise. Vying for the top spot are five labels from across the globe; Altuzarra, Rahul Mishra, Christopher Esber, FFIXXED and, getting our vote, European finalists, Sibling. Each will show their collections at a catwalk show in Milan, before a panel of judges that includes Alexa Chung, Colin McDowell and Tim Blanks retires to consider its verdict.
We caught up with Joe Bryan, Sid Bates and Cozette McCreery, the three masters of knit behind Sibling, to talk about the prize.
How did it feel to win the European leg of the prize?
Joe: It was so out of the blue it was a joyous moment we were genuinely thrilled. It was like wed won the lottery or something.
Woolmark and Sibling are such a natural fit given your passion for knitwear.
Cozette: That was one of our questions from the panel, why do you think you should have the award? Wed done menswear two days before and we were all a bit gaga so I just sighed and said, Sorry, I dont mean to sigh but how much merino wool did we use in our last collection? 75 plus kilos just for the catwalk presentation? We honestly feel like we deserved it based on what wed done previously, not just one or too token wool pieces, we basically had a whole flock of sheep going down the catwalk.
Sid: And Cozette was a shepherd.
Cozette: It was quite random. I left London and lived on a kibbutz and was offered non-volunteer job so I ended up being a shepherd in Israel for two years.
Joe: And Sid used to hang out in a wool shop as a kid.
Sid: I did. I grew up in a small village in Yorkshire and my neighbours owned a wool shop and I thought it was fantastic to hang out there at the weekend. Thats the sort of level I was on when I was 9.
Is the theme of the collection the same as your a/w 2014 line?
Joe: It stands alone but its part of the whole so the references are the same. The starting point was my mum and my Irish family because she worked within the knit industry, my private memories of her, her and her love of the garden and her love of the craft and her love of colour.
What would winning the prize mean to the label?
Joe: It will help us to develop the womens pre-collection that were launching next season, and to employ a few more people.
Sid: The retail partners that Woolmark has are really exciting too. If we were to win then theres the opportunity to be associated with Corso Como and Harvey Nichols, theres some of the most prestigious stores in the world on that list.
Cozette: We need to get our website and our showroom up and running. And wed love to have a store. Even though our products are very graphic and sell very well online, we still don't believe that you can get 100% out of it until you see it and touch it.
Joe: And also, harking back to being a fashion hungry youth, we all were and my personal pilgrimage was to travel 200 miles down to Vivienne Westwood at Worlds End and my heart would beat faster as I was walking up from Sloane Square to spend every penny I had on whatever I could get. Id like to be able to share that experience.
Coz: Thats also why we had the name, so that people would feel that they could become part of the family, whether that would be going to the store to buy artwork that we like or music that we like or a sweater. Its a bit like feeling that its an all-inclusive club and you can really get that from a store, from how you style it and staff it.
What is it about knitwear that turns you on?
Cozette: For me its the alchemy of taking a thread and making a garment out of it, that you can take a ball of wool and two sticks and can make yourself a scarf or a jumper. Its an amazing thing to do.