Cottweiler Winners of the International Woolmark Award Interviewed

Cottweiler Woolmark

Cottweiler on the rise: The London based designers won the 2016/17 Menswear International Woolmark Prize in Paris just a few weeks ago. As Stuart McCullough presented the awards , pride was clearly spreading across his face. “I’d like to say how delighted we are to be back here in Paris after all those years. As you know it’s a long time since we’ve been here. Wool doesn’t sell in Australia; it’s produced there but it sells right here.” 

Cottweiler took an unusual route to international fashion stardom and the winners of the 2016/17 Menswear International Woolmark Prize chatted with us about their inspirations and where they came from. If you don’t know about Cottweiler – the brand is helmed by designer duo Matthew Dainty and Ben Cottrell. Their work is a conceptual take on modern sportswear with a healthy dose of digital art influence. Cottweiler was founded in 2010 after the duo left college in Bristol and decided to create a luxury sportswear brand in keeping with todays relaxed dressing. Fame wasn’t instant but they drove their success via social media and particularly Tumblr and now dress musicians and artists – Cottweiler may specialise in menswear but FKA Twigs can’t resist the duo’s creations. Something About caught up with the winners for an exclusive Q and A about their work immediately after their success.

Cottweiler Woolmark
Cottweiler with Womens winner Gabriela Hearst

Something About talk to Cottweiler about their route to success.

Cottweiler : This is our third show this season

S/A Is it already?

Cottweiler : Yeah, yeah, so it’s been pretty full on. We did London as well, so err it’s been yeah pretty intense. Pretty busy as you can tell.

Is it the sort of career that you might recommend to other people then?

Cottweiler : Well I don’t know, we’ve got each other. We have a really good time, and are pretty grounded to be fair. Yeah it’s pretty fun.

 How did you find each other?

Cottweiler : We went to university in Bristol together. Sort of over 10 years ago, we studied fashion and textiles, so yeah, we’ve been working together ever since.

Ok, ok and then how long have you been working on Cottweiler together?

Cottweiler : So it started as kind of a hobby. We were making clothes for each other an it just kind of evolved organically. Then we started making clothes for our friends and then we have been working with Nanasuzki, our sales agent, who is also one of our best friends for many years, and she is one of the best in the business and she sent loads of Japanese buyers down to our grotty little studio one season and that was kind of the beginning of the brand really. We always wanted our own thing and it’s been a passion of ours for a very long time. 

And how did you get involved with the Woolmark?

Cottweiler : We were nominated for the first by the CFE, the Centre of Fashion Enterprise and they are based in London. They are a Government Funded Body who supported us, who were on the pioneer award and they nominated us for the award for the British Isles Final, which we won and now we are here.

Your collection is a very innovative use of wool anyway.

Cottweiler : Exactly. We use a lot of sort of technical fabrics so it’s unusual to try and find the Merino wools that can perform a technical job. It was interesting for us.

Where did you find the mills?

Cottweiler : So we have actually been working with the same mill that we use for our own mainline collection and they have a Merino sports system range collection, which we had never used before and they do a lot of high-end ski wear, that kind of thing. We have been using a lot of their synthetic fabrics for many years. So they have been actually very supportive towards us and for the Woolmark Award. And we felt, you know, comfortable working with them because we know their kind of aesthetic. It’s an Italian mill, they have this kind of idea of a classic luxury which we are really into and also we pushed them to kind of innovate with their fabrics as well, so we did bonding Merinos to our kind of technical nylons. So yeah, it was kind of a natural process really, we have always used Italian fabrics so this is what the collection was made of..

 Ok. Australian wool, Italian fabrics. Are they super lightweight?

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Cottweiler : Yeah, really lightweight. Everything is packable. Yeah. And this is the other thing for us, you know, err, we didn’t want to produce something that was, you know, we are constantly on the go through. We are constantly travelling, constantly going out, we are constantly clubbing, you know, it’s really important that you can kind of have something that is really lightweight. We feel it. it’s kind of out dated to sort of be kind of wearing things that are sort of like super heavy, that you can’t pack, you know, I think it’s relevant to the guy of our age and above that, how they live their lives.

It’s quite unusual to make sports wear out of Merino.

Cottweiler : Yeah, it is. It is used a little bit but it is potentially very tight base layers and stuff. But that’s fashion I guess. But not everyone used a silhouette. So it’s interesting for us to start playing around with that idea. The Merino has exactly almost better properties than a lot of man made fabrics that we use as well you know. Merino keeps you call in the Summer and warm in the Winter, its a perfect technical fabric.

Do you think that you will continue that work?

Cottweiler : Yeah, absolutely. We have the Woolmark certification now so it would be silly not to.

So, would it sort of form a separate collection to your normal?

Cottweiler : Yeah, I think so. We were talking of producing a sort of core-line. So maybe this is where it could work well. 

Oh, so, this would stay in the collection the whole time?

Cottweiler : Maybe, maybe  if we combine the nylons and wools together. It has an interesting take on it, we can be bit more experimental then with the technical fabric from the mainline. These were kind of signature pieces, you know. We wanted to kind of show everyone that our mainline was very much about pushing things forward. Sometimes it’s quite hard for a designer to stop a minute and look at what’s working and what people want to see. So this was a really good way for us to produce a core signature range.

Exciting times. When is it going into store?

Cottweiler : No idea. We will find out tomorrow. We do the showrooms tomorrow onwards. We will meet with all the buyers. As long as it’s not in a month’s time. Yeah exactly. As long as we have time to produce it, I think we will be alright. I am guessing it will be around August. So like Autumn/Winter. We will keep it capsule, keep it tight. We may not also use everything, you know. I think it’s about the popular signature looks. Absolutely. We have to tell, I think that’s more important than trying to spread it to wide, I think.

So what’s next for you two?

Cottweiler : Sleep. Sleep, yeah. Need to go to bed. 1 more glass and we are in bed now. No just a little bit of a break and then we are back in Paris in a week or so’s time for Premier Vision to start sourcing fabric for the new season.