IN THE perfect setting of an iconic Australian shearing shed, the 2015 International Woolmark Prize Winner Marcia Patmos launched her winning women’s wear collection at “Ahgunyah”, Crookwell, last week.
“Aghunyah” was settled by Charles Ernest Prell in 1905 who set about building a Merino enterprise using superphosphate and clover to boost the land’s carrying capacity.
Today Charles’ great granddaughter, Sally McLean, and her husband Angus, along their daughter Carina Doran and husband Andrew Doran, run 12,000 superfine adult Merino sheep.
But last week, it was all about the end product when The Woolmark Company and David Jones hosted the M.Patmos collection launch.
The wool shed was transformed into a “pop up shop” with female woolgrowers in the area given the pleasure of being the first customers to buy pieces from the label and enjoy a high tea.
Marcia’s New York-based label M. Patmos was announced the winner of the International Woolmark Prize in Beijing during March, edging out four other design talents in front of an esteemed judging panel including style icon Victoria Beckham in the women‘s-wear final.
It was a long way since Marcia’s first job in the children’s section in American department store, Macy’s.
The rising fashion designer is known for using simple palettes designed for the women of today.
In a capsule collection that includes a convertible coat and expedition trousers, Marcia used a mixture of 100 per cent superfine Merino wool of 15.5-micron and 100 per cent extra-fine mercerised Merino wool of 19.5-micron.
Marcia was drawn to work with the natural fibre of wool because it was so versatile.
“I’m passionate about the product,” she said.
“You can use the different microns of wools for different pieces – knits, woven pieces as well as suiting – and I can use it creatively in my collections.
“It also feels so nice against the skin.”
With a preference to work with only natural fibres – cotton, cashmere, wool, alpaca and silk – Marcia has been captivated by the Merino wool’s creamy colours and ability to not crease.
“I do love the idea of just using the natural colours,” she said.
“My clothes are very cool and simple and are designed for every occasion.
“People are busy these days; they don’t have time to go home and change.”
She developed her winning collection around a fictional globetrotting architect who loses her suitcase in a multi-city trip abroad.
Marcia said everything looked chic in her winning collection choosing the colours so anything could be pulled from a suitcase and mixed and matched together.
“In the end my collection did fit exactly into one suitcase.”
Marcia said the Woolmark Prize win had given her career a major boost and “incredible global publicity”.
“I have had exposure to the best in the industry now,” she said.
“My next step is to grow my business abroad as well as open my own store in New York.”
It was Marcia’s first trip to Australia and her first time seeing and feeling an Australian Merino sheep.
She was joined by a group of female wool growers from the Crookwell region for the exclusive Australian launch.
“Coming to ‘Ahgunyah’ to see the natural beauty of where Australian Merino wool is produced and meeting Carina and her family has allowed me to explore the many faces of wool,” she said.
“From being grown on grass, water and sunshine right through to being turned into luxury apparel, I feel lucky to be involved in this industry.”
Focused on the future
WHEN Carina Doran’s great, great grandfather, Charles Earnest Prell, settled at “Ahgunyah” in the Crookwell district at the turn of the 19th century he probably wouldn't have believed an international fashion designer would be launching her winning Merino collection in his wool shed.
“Ahgunyah” is now owned by Angus and Sally McLean and run in conjunction with their daughter, Carina Doran and her husband Andrew Doran.
Carina grew up on the family’s other farm near Breadalbane, but “Ahgunyah”, is where her mother grew up and where Carina’s grandparents, Tony and Mary, still live on the farm.
Together they run 12,000 adult Merino sheep with 4000 Merino ewes joined back to Merinos.
They also run a first and second cross operation.
Before deciding to return to “Ahgunyah”, Carina studied computer science and technology at university in Sydney and later also worked in Sydney.
In November last year her husband made a career change and the couple returned full-time to the family farm.
The couple’s return coincided with the birth of their first son, Flynn.
Carina said the couple were fully focused on the wool industry and establishing a future in it.
“I am passionate about wool and love it as a product – it’s diverse, can be turned into the most beautiful, fine quality fabric and fabulous designs such as Marcia Patmos’ range demonstrates,” she said.
“It was great to be able to hold this event here to promote and recognise wool as well as show where it comes from.”