What happens after you win one of Australia’s most prestigious student fashion design competitions?



From a student competition to the big smoke.

A new city. A new degree. And a second COVID lockdown. After speaking with Simran Prasad back in February, I thought I’d call the winner of the 2020 Wool4School competition again to hear just how her life has changed since that time.

Chatting from a locked-down Sydney after one of her remote classes at the Whitehouse Institute of Design, Simran shares her gratitude for the Woolmark Company. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Woolmark, to be honest.”

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The Woolmark Company is a not-for-profit organisation described as “the global authority on wool”. It champions the more eco-friendly fibre and works alongside woolgrowers to research, develop and certify the Australian resource.

But for Simran, entering the competition in her final year of high school meant that the Woolmark Company has changed the course of her life.

Originally hailing from regional Queensland, Simran won the annual student design competition with her entry inspired by the diphylleia grayi, also known as the skeleton flower.

The design also paid tribute to one of her favourite K-pop singers, Kim Jong-Hyun, who sadly took his own life in 2017. Since winning the national competition, Simran has graduated high school, been featured with her first-place entry in the press and moved to the big smoke of Sydney.

And just like any young person moving out of home and starting a university degree, Simran tells me there have been some challenges.

“With the help of my family, I overcame it easily,” Simran says. But as she gets stuck into her fashion course the 18-year-old shares that her whole outlook has shifted.

“The biggest challenge was to grow into a design-oriented mindset that not only focuses on fashion but pattern making and construction, history, art, and context in fashion and design. As well as just growing up as a person!”

While some corporations may churn through student competitors and not provide much in the way of ongoing help, Simran tells me that the support from Woolmark has continued even after she’s gained a scholarship and won the competition.

“Woolmark is trying to share the knowledge and encourage other people and if it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she says warmly.

“I wasn’t going to study fashion because it was so expensive. Because of the scholarship, I could actually start my fashion career earlier. I was thinking of doing it after I studied medicine, had a stable job and then I could study part-time because it’s such an expensive field.”

The uni student says that she’s still in touch with Woolmark’s project managers and is regularly contacted to participate in panels, meetups and networking events. The Wool4School competition encourages innovative thinking for an industry that is becoming increasingly environmentally damaging.

Simran’s entry was made up of 80 per cent biodegradable Merino wool, and while she can’t afford the expensive fibre on a tight student budget, she says that participating in the competition has made her think differently about fabrics and fibres that she’s using in her degree.

“Whenever I go fabric shopping I try to stick with eco-friendly materials. Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world so it’s [the Wool4School competition] definitely opened my eyes to becoming more environmentally friendly. Both in fabrics and wasting less.”

Winning the competition was undoubtedly a bright spot in a challenging year, so I ask Simran what her highlight of Wool4School was.

“My favourite part was when I kept getting new ideas. I would walk around or go to a park and find ways to develop or manipulate the fabric that could actually enhance the storytelling I was working with.

“Especially in my last submission, my mum always freaked out because I’d wake up at two am sketching because I got an idea in my dream. So the highlight was applying those small, intricate details and coming up with the final product.”

While for many university students talking about what they’re learning can result in bored groans, Simran excitedly shares with me that for her latest assignment she’s working on a capsule collection inspired by her Indian heritage.

“It will be the traditional garments like saris and then I’m going to modernise it into urban utility and sportswear designs. I’m making something very traditional and beautiful into something more sporty.

“It’s a fusion but I’ve taken up the challenge and I’m really excited about that,” she tells me. I end our phone call certain that we’ll be hearing a lot more from Simran Prasad soon.

To read more about the Wool4School design competition, including how to enter, head here.

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