The award winners and creative finalists' concepts for the Woolmark Performance Challenge competition for 2021/22 have been announced by the Woolmark Company.
Using the natural characteristics of Australian Merino wool, the competition focuses on innovation and forward-thinking product solutions for the sports and performance market.
The winners, Daniel Winegar, Caroline Schinle, Francesco Matera, and Harleen Kaur, were presented with their awards on 18th March for exceptional achievement in a ceremony in Paris.
Woolmark has worked with two companies for the challenge for the first time, with On, a Swiss running brand, and SALEWA, an Italian skiwear brand, briefing students.
SALEWA urged students to invent low-impact fabric technologies to build thermo-regulating garments for mountain activities, while On challenged students to research apparel innovations that respond to the greatest demands of performance for runners while "maximizing fashion-forward wearability."
The tertiary incubation program promotes innovative thinking and the development of "the next generation of game-changers." The 12 most promising concepts were chosen as finalists from over 400 submissions from around the world before judges determined the winners in each area.
Caroline Schinle of Germany's Albstadt-Sigmaringen University received an internship with On, and the Swiss brand also established a new Research Opportunity grant for Harleen Kaur of India's Pearl Academy.
In order to create a 100% biodegradable product, Schinle developed a new filling method for padded jackets that uses a novel structure as a foundation for a Merino wool and milkweed fiber filling.
Kaur's creative submission identified a need in the market for activewear that caters to the demands of pregnant and postpartum runners, resulting in gear that adapts to the changing body. The concept is to support both the mother and the foetus in the right places, giving cooling when the body temperature increases and monitoring the baby's health with a foetal heart rate monitor.
Global Head of Talent Acquisition at On, Louis de Vos, said that while both proposals were extremely different from each other, each of the two candidates shines through their potential to disrupt the current quo and be innovative. They felt that by offering a platform and resources to investigate, they might help cultivate that potential and grow the thinking around assisting the future generation of innovators.
James Thompson, Head of Materials at On, added that Caroline and Harleen were both able to take the initial requirement and turn their work into a great combination of innovation, sustainability, and customer-centricity while keeping the aesthetic in mind. Their concepts were based on existing processes, but they ventured to go beyond them, challenging industry assumptions and capturing the zeitgeist of environmental issue solutions as well as diversity and inclusion gaps in today's textile sector.
Skiwear specialists SALEWA chose Dan Winegar from the University of Oregon in the United States as the internship winner for his proposal to automatically modify insulation thickness to preserve comfort during and after exercise. Depending on the level of skier activity, the resulting 3D flexible materials can switch from insulating to cooling modes.
SALEWA Senior Product Director Thomas Moe, said that through his project, Dan embodied the idea of capturing air in a smart and unique way. He opens opportunities for new solutions by combining one of the oldest fibers, Merino wool, with an intelligent smocking technique with elasticity and insulation, backed by data, which they are delighted to support and explore with him.
The Woolmark Research Bursary was awarded to IED Milan student Francesco Matera, who envisioned a garment that "acts like a second skin" - responding to the body in action. His design incorporates strategically placed high compression zones and seamless knitted garments made of elastane to support and modify the wearer's muscles and limbs during activity.
Julie Davies, The Woolmark Company’s General Manager for Processing Innovation and Education Extension, said that Francesco exhibited a profound awareness of what is lacking in existing performance clothes and what an athlete perceives under strain. He showed considerable study for an innovative garment design, as well as why wearing the garment made of wool would provide higher technical and physical benefits to the wearer. He is looking forward to following Francesco's development and assisting him.
The Woolmark Challenge website is already accepting applications for the next edition of the challenge, which is being held in collaboration with Salomon.
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