The Woolmark Company is helping students get a foot in the door of the fashion industry



It boosted my confidence to pursue what I love.”

When Sara Regan won the 2021 Wool4School design competition, the first thing she heard was her family screaming from the other end of the house. They had been watching the Zoom ceremony from a separate room. 

“It was pretty surreal, I guess,” she tells me. “It was a really nice feeling, like all the hard work paid off. I honestly didn’t expect that I was going to win, and I still doubt myself to this day. I’m like, ‘Really?’”.

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Wool4School is a fashion design competition open to secondary students from Australia, Italy and the United Kingdom. First launched in Australia in 2012, the competition now involves over 100,000 students worldwide. It’s hosted by The Woolmark Company, an internationally recognised not-for-profit organisation that is at the heart of all things Australian wool. 

Contestants are challenged to create a one to four-piece outfit design out of – well, I’m sure you can guess the material. Last year’s grand prize included a full scholarship to the Whitehouse Institute of Design, a $100 gift card for Assembly Label, a Berina sewing machine and a trip to Sydney to learn felting with designer Jordan Gogos

Sara says her win made her feel like she belonged in the industry. “It boosted my confidence to pursue what I love,” she says. “Before that, I never would reach out to people because I’d be like ‘What if my work’s not good enough?’”. 

Now, she isn’t afraid to network with fellow designers. She’s even had the opportunity to assist some stylists and photographers on shoots. 

At Whitehouse, her first year of study has been like a dream come true. “They have so many opportunities and they really push you as well to be the best designer you can,” she says.

The winning submission that propelled her into her career was an avant-garde, utilitarian outfit including a pair of trousers, a jumper, a coat and an oversized square bag. In a neutral palette, the unisex design would be right at home on the racks of a sci-fi Uniqlo.

It was created for the brief ‘Wool on the Go’, which encouraged designers to draw inspiration from sustainable methods of travel. The look was an ode to the art student’s public transit commute to and from school with their folio bag. Leaning further into the sustainability theme, she even made the pockets from recycled plastic bottles. 

One of the great benefits of wool, other than being luxuriously cosy (and basically a second skin for us all winter) is that it’s completely natural, renewable and biodegradable. Sara says spending so much time focused on the fabric gave her a better understanding of eco-conscious fashion. 

“Before the competition, I didn’t really have a strong idea of the concept of wool and how versatile and strong and high quality it is. I think it’s really opened my eyes to how many sustainable options there are out there and why we should invest our time and attention to those materials.”

And invest the time she did. Sara told me she took a three-hour course on wool via the Woolmark Learning Centre to learn all of the ins and outs. The application process both tested and strengthened her skills as a designer.

“It was really trial and error, there [were] thousands of different ideas,” she says. “If you looked at my first drawing, you would have thought ‘Oh my god, how did she even get to where [she] did in the end?’. It was honestly atrocious.”

After her high school fashion teacher suggested she do the competition, it was a long journey of researching, sketching, revising and scrolling through Pinterest for inspiration. But what she learned along the way was priceless.

“It’s sort of like a trial run in the industry. It really takes so much to make the final product. I think it’s just a really great learning experience. If you do or don’t win, it’s just so worth it in the end, you really learn so much,” she tells me. 

This year, the theme of the contest is ‘Design for your Hero’. Your hero could be your favourite teacher, a family member or a fashion icon, but their outfit needs to embody your interpretation of sustainability and be fit for a purpose.

Wool needs to be the fibre making up at least 70 per cent of the outfit, and the outfit needs to consist of one to four pieces. If this sounds up your alley, you can find more information about the entry requirements here. Submissions close on August 5. 

To register for the Wool4School competition, head here.

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