AWI and International Fashion Designers Support Emerging Design Talent

AWI has launched the "Italian Protege Project" to showcase the use of Merino wool while also supporting emerging fashion designers.


The largest organization of Australian Merino wool producers, Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) today announced a protégé program of emerging fashion design talent as part of celebrations to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Australian wool trade.

The Italian Protégé Project, announced at Pitti Uomo in Florence, Italy will see top fashion designers Karl Lagerfeld, Donatella Versace, Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein and Paul Smith mentoring five young protégés, who will each create a fashion line made exclusively from Australian Merino wool. Franca Sozzani, the editor of Vogue Italy will also be working with a protégé.

The selected protégés are:

Jean-Pierre Braganza (working with Karl Lagerfeld)
Kristian Aadnevik (working with Donatella Versace)
Julian Louie (working with Francisco Costa)
Ioannis Cholidis (working with Paul Smith)
Sandra Backlund (working with Franca Sozzani)

The challenge to each of these young designers is to create an entire collection based on Australian Merino wool. The Protégé collections will be produced with the assistance of some of the biggest names in the textile industry such as: Cerruti, Ermenegildo Zegna, Loro Piana, Reda, Vitale Barberis Canonico, Chiavazza and Zegna Baruffa.

“The Italian Protégé Project is supported by the most prestigious names and companies in the fashion business and we are delighted that they have come on board. The project highlights the strong relationship Australian Merino wool has with Italian designers, who have always held Merino wool in the highest esteem,” AWI Regional Manager Italy Fabrizio Servente said.

The five protégés will unveil their Australian Merino wool collections at a special event at Pitti Immagine Uomo at Palazzo Corsini in Florence, Italy in January 2008.

Biographies of the designers and their protégés follows.

Karl Lagerfeld
Karl Lagerfeld was born in Hamburg but moved to Paris, where, in 1955 he won a competition for a coat sponsored by the International Wool Secretariat. This acknowledgement helped him become a young apprentice at Pierre Balmain who actually produced the original coat Karl had designed Three years later, he was awarded a position as creative director at Jean Patou, a 5-year-association during which Karl also explored other passions such as history, music and architecture. At the end of the 1960's he began collaborating with Fendi, before taking the position of chief executive of design at the House of Chanel in 1983. In 1984 he launched his own collection “Karl Lagerfeld”.

Jean-Pierre Braganza
Jean-Pierre Braganza was born in London to an Asian father and Irish mother. As a child Jean-Pierre moved to Canada where he attended fashion college before moving back to London to finish his studies at St. Martin's School. His exceptional skills made him stand out, and, after graduation he was offered the chance to cooperate with Cary Williams and Roland Mouret, from whom he inherited his love and appreciation for detail. His 2004 men's and women's wear collection was highly acclaimed at London Fashion Week.

Donatella Versace
Donatella Versace was born in Reggio Calabria. Donatella spent her early years as a language student at the University of Florence. She soon began collaborating with her brother Gianni with her working on the Versace brand's advertising campaigns. As her involvement in the business grew, Donatella began with the design of accessories and, in 1993, moved on to create Versace Young, her children's line. The following year she became head designer for Versus, the trendy Maison Versace brand. Today Donatella is Vice President and Creative Director of the group and holds 20% of Gianni Versace S.p.A.

Kristian Aadnevik
This 29-year-old Norwegian designer completed his brilliant academic career, marked by prizes and recognition, at London's Royal College of Art. His work experience includes collaboration with Harrods International in London and Charles Jourdan in Japan. His own label, created in 2004, is now in its sixth collection. Kristian's style is appreciated by Mette-Marit, The Crown Princess of Norway and artist Jamelia who has chosen to wear Aadnevik in her latest music videos.

Francisco Costa
Francisco Costa was born in Brazil, with fashion in his blood. His parents ran a well known clothing business and his sister is a fashion stylist. With an ambition to design for a top fashion house, he moved to New York in the 1990s and soon after graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology. After winning the Idea Como/Young Designers prize, he went on to work with Oscar de la Renta and Pierre Balmain. In 1998 Tom Ford hired him to design evening wear for Gucci. Today, Francisco Costa is the creative director for Calvin Klein.

Julian Louie
Julian moved from Santa Cruz, California, to study architecture at New York's Cooper Union and developed a side interest in fashion. Julian explored the relationships between architecture, fashion and painting. In 2005 he started an internship with the label Imitation of Christ and spent an entire month spent painting on yards and yards of silk chiffon for the Haute Couture Paris collection. Today, with a degree in architecture and a passion for painting, he is in Francisco Costa's staff of designers.

Paul Smith
Paul Smith is one of UK's most well-known fashion designers. Paul entered the fashion industry almost by chance, enthralled by the enthusiasm of young students at Nottingham Royal College of Art. His first step was to take tailoring lessons and open a small shop in London in 1970. With the support of his wife Pauline, Paul Smith has managed to become, arguably, Britain's foremost fashion designer.

Ioannis Cholidis
Ioannis Cholidis was born in Greece and has a degree from London St. Martin's School. His achievements in his fashion career include designing a sneaker line for Puma and a freelance cooperation with Stella McCartney, designing the clothes worn by British band Coldplay.

Franca Sozzani
Franca began her career in journalism after completing her BA at the Milan Cattolica University. In 1988 she became Editor-in-chief of the Italian edition of Vogue, Editor of Condè Nast Italia in 1994, and Editor of L'Uomo Vogue in 2006. She is also the author of several books about photography, fashion, art and design, as well as curator of exhibitions and has a special interest for talent-scouting. Several important photographers, artists and designers attribute their success to her commitment to the promotion of young talent, an undertaking for which she has recently been acknowledged with an international award.

Sandra Backlund
Sandra Backlund is a young Swedish designer with a passion for knitwear. With a degree from Beckmans School of Design in 2004, Sandra has rapidly became known and appreciated for her amazing talent in handicraft. The human body is the starting point and, with the approach of a sculptor, Sandra constructs her work around the silhouette, arranging different shapes as in a 3-D puzzle. First prize winner of the Hyeres Festival International De Mode & De Photographie , Sandra has opened a tiny atelier in Stockholm where she spends day and night experimenting new shapes and volumes.

In 1807 the Reverend Samuel Marsden, owner of the third largest Merino flock in Australia at the time, arrived in England with a cask of Australian wool, marking the export of the first bale of Merino wool from Australia to Europe for commercial sale. With The Protégé project, AWI celebrates in Italy two centuries of Australian Merino wool.

For more information, contact Felicia Morton (212) 373-6026


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