Chatting with Wool4School’s 2018 prize winner, Cindy Kieu

Words by Fashion Journal

Young talent.

The Woolmark Company has returned with its annual design competition, inviting high school students to explore the versatility of wool.

Wool4School is open to budding fashion designers from years 7 to 12, with 2019’s theme revolving around technology.

Students must create one to four designs that tap into this theme, using at least 80 per cent Australian wool. Prizes will be awarded for best entries, with the top prize for Year 11 being a 5-day internship with Dion Lee. Year 12 students will be awarded a scholarship to Whitehouse Institute of Design.

To get the inspiration flowing, we sat down with 2018’s Year 11 winner, Cindy Kieu, who designed a wool coat that transforms into a sleeping bag with other valuable uses.

What did it feel like to be selected as one of the Wool4School 2018 prize winners among all the other applicants?

To be selected as one of the Wool4School winners was truly an amazing feeling and an honour. The innovative design theme for 2018 allowed my creativity to shine, and I can imagine it did the same for all the other talented applicants. I was overwhelmed and excited after learning that I had won, as I knew the opportunities offered with the prize would be incredibly eye-opening, providing me with real insight into the fashion world.

What initially inspired you to enter Wool4School?

I have entered Wool4School for five consecutive years, and I can say that my commitment to the competition has been due to my ever-growing love for fashion. I believe clothing is an amazing form of self-expression, as it gives the world an understanding of who an individual is without any words being spoken. Fashion can convey ideas, feelings, or exist simply to serve a desired purpose.

Last year, Wool4School designers were asked to create a multi-functional outfit in wool. How did you embrace this theme?

Designing an outfit to suit this theme was initially quite challenging. While the theme offered endless possibilities, narrowing it down to a desired end-user and concept was difficult. I embraced the multi-functionality of fashion by designing a practical outfit, with a homeless person in mind. I wanted to design an outfit that could serve multiple purposes necessary for comfort and wellbeing. Therefore, I kept weather and basic necessities of the homeless in mind. This guided the design of my various garments.

Can you talk us through the design process?

I start my design process by brainstorming. I write down a central theme and explore the potential ways this theme could be applied within the fashion world. I look at current fashion trends and seek inspiration from the world around me. When designing [my outfit] Metamorphosis, puffer jackets and long coat styles were very popular. From these trends, I explored the various users of jackets and decided that homelessness was a modern issue that needed addressing from a fashion standpoint. I then began sketching potential designs for my garments. This included functional features and general shapes of garments. Once satisfied with my design, I researched different wool types and innovations. This allowed me to choose the most appropriate materials to construct my garments from. Lastly, I chose the colours of the garments. I tended to stick to a certain theme/colour palette, allowing for a cohesive design appearance. This year I decided to utilise earthy tones, as I believed it would be most suitable for my end-user, while maintaining a modern appearance.

What was your favourite part?

My favourite part is always colouring in my designs. Adding colour to a simple line drawing brings life to the garments while tying the whole design together. It is very satisfying to see the end result of a long design process.

How did you come up with the name Metamorphosis?

I came up with the name while researching the potential end-users for my design. Seeing images and reading statistics and news stories about homelessness worldwide made me realise the severity of the issue within society. This inspired me to design an outfit that could improve the wellbeing of such individuals. Metamorphosis refers to the process whereby an animal, typically a butterfly, transforms from its original state – a caterpillar, into something more magnificent – a butterfly. I therefore chose Metamorphosis to be the name of this design as I believe fashion has the capacity to change the lives of the less fortunate. While this could be direct and personal, by designing multi-functional garments, it could also be on a larger scale, by raising funds or promoting important messages through campaigns or the sale of garments with a cause in mind.

How do your designs work to ease some of the challenges that come along with homelessness?

My design aims to ease some of the daily physical challenges that a homeless person might face. The durable garments and the thickness of the puffer jacket protects individuals from harsh weather conditions, while transforming into a sleeping bag to provide a more comfortable sleeping option. Additionally, the jacket has segments that can be unzipped, transforming into a baby swaddle, or into a bag to hold personal belongings. Lastly, the jumper and pants can both be converted from long to short sleeves/legs, therefore adapting to suit different climates.

How long did it take to conceptualise your design?

It took me a few weeks to explore and finally decide on an end-user. I then spent about a fortnight researching trends and brainstorming ideas for garments, thus leading to the sketching and conceptualisation of my design.

Was it challenging to design an outfit using at least 80 per cent wool?

Every year, ensuring that my design is 80 per cent wool is always a difficulty. Despite the versatile nature of wool, researching the different wool materials and innovations available always takes effort and time. I always try my best to incorporate wool into all aspects of my design, often only substituting it for another material to increase functionality of the design.

One of the prizes you scored was an internship with Jac+ Jack, what were you most excited to learn?

I was particularly excited to learn about the marketing aspect of the fashion industry. Often, consumers only see the superficial components of fashion – the garments themselves. However, the work that goes into conceptualising and selling fashion is usually overlooked. I was very surprised by the effort needed to simply make a promotional email, or to update a single feature on the Jac+ Jack website. The internship was very eye-opening and I now have a greater appreciation for the work that goes into maintaining a creative and successful fashion label.

Do you plan on pursuing a career in fashion?

While I am unsure if I will go directly into a career in fashion after school, I know that fashion will always play a prominent role in my life. Fashion is one of my outlets for self-expression and I believe it will remain one of my passions throughout life. Although I don’t know what the future holds, a dream of mine would be to design clothing that allows others to feel as empowered as I do when I wear the garments that I love most.

For info on how to enter this year’s Wool4School competition and be in the running to win a scholarship to Whitehouse Institute of Design, head here.


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