“I didn’t think we would win—I mean I was confident in our work, but during the 15 minutes that we had to defend it, I was very nervous, and the judges were reserved,” explained Yago Goicoechea, who, along with Riccardo Audisio represent the duo behind UAE-based Taller Marmo. The duo took home the Woolmark International Regional Prize held last night at Vida Hotel, and simultaneously marked the first win for the UAE in the regional womenswear category (last year, The Emperor 1688 took the honors for menswear). Other finalists included Misha Lakhani and Sania Maskatiya of Pakistan; Akaaro, Suketdhir, and Nachiket Barve of India; Thamanyah and Bleach of the UAE; and Bashar Assaf and Mira Hayek from Lebanon.
Creating a collection inspired by the life of the late English explorer and archeologist Gertrude Bell, the designers featured pieces that intentionally opposed any preconceived notion of wool. “We didn’t want to do anything that was cozy, or made you think of sitting by a fireplace in your knitwear,” explained the designers. “And actually, everyone thought that this coat we produced was made with neoprene fabric.” The off-white outerwear was in fact made with a bonded wool fabric—85% wool and 15% polyamide— and weighed four kilos and 800 grams. It featured a cobalt blue lining that was in harmony with the mesh top that was previously awarded at the fabric trade show Premier Vision in Paris. The coat also featured a solid silver Merino goat head with South American raw emerald eyes fashioned by Italian jeweler Soldani & Bianchi.
In keeping with the idea of travel, and donning clothes suitable for all climes, the garments included details such as large pockets and unique hand-drawn white symbols hand-painted on the clothes. These drawings, which featured the likes of the evil eye and the lion paw (the latter being a symbol of strength and protection), marked a very strong connection between Merino wool and Berber culture, as discovered by Taller Marmo’s designers.
“Searching the origins of Merino wool, we learned that its name is related to the Marinid, a Berber dynasty, known to be shepherds and breeders of sheep, which ruled Morocco between 1244 and 1465,” Explained the designers. Berber rugs feature such symbols, which Audisio and Goicoechea chose to adorn the clothes as a nod to the brand’s Middle East positioning.
Both Taller Marmo and Suketdhir, the menswear finalists , will be given a financial prize of AED/SAR 136,112 along with the opportunity to represent India, Pakistan, and the Middle East at the international finals to be held in Florence, January 2016 (menswear), and New York, February 2016, where each will feature a fully produced capsule collection. The winner of the International Woolmark Prize will be awarded an additional AED/SAR 272,225 and will have the clothing stocked in Harvey Nichols (London), 10 Corso Como (Milan, Beijing, and Shanghai), Matchesfashion.com (online), Mytheresa.com (online), Saks Fifth Avenue (NYC), Joyce (China), Boutique 1 (UAE), and David Jones (Australia).
2014 is turning out to be quite the year for Taller Marmo, the brand is also a finalist for the Style.com/Arabia—DDFC/Fashion Prize in partnership with Farfetch; the winner will be announced at a gala in Dubai this coming November.