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Edited by on May 1 2012 at 7:55 AM

The prize that launched the careers of Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent is being relaunched this year for a new generation of designers.

International Woolmark Prize Returns to the Runway

Lagerfeld, left, and Saint Laurent, center

Way before the advent of the Project Runways (and its alleged All-Stars), the The Fashion Shows and the Fashion Stars, there was one illustrious design competition that actually set out to do what those shows only dream of doing: producing a design superstar. In 1955, the Australian Wool Industry‘s International Wool Secretariat prize produced two, Lagerfed and Saint Laurent. Lagerfeld won in the coats category, Saint Laurent in the dresses category, and the rest is history.

A thousand years later, AWI wants to make wool hip again(?) and in the process give a  few lucky designers a couple thousand bucks. AWI will hold regional design contests in China, Australia, India, Italy, the UK and France, with each finalist receiving cash money towards their next collection and a chance to participate in the international final.

The international finalist will be crowned in March 2013 and will receive $100,000 to underwrite their next fashion show, and their collections will be sold in Harvey Nichols in the UK, Lane Crawford in China, Eickhoff in Germany and Bergdorf Goodman in the US.

The US judging will take place on July 9 in New York with a panel of judges that includes CFDA CEO Steven Kolb, Narciso Rodriguez and T: The New York Times Style Magazine EIC Sally Singer. The international judging will he held in September during London Fashion Week where Diane von Fursteberg and Vogue Italia editrix Franca Sozzani will be among the judges. Designers are required to submit sketches of a six-piece merino wool capsule collection with one outfit fully produced.

Kolb has said that the CFDA has already received some 25 applications, not just from emerging designers but also brands “who could use a boost.” Although we’re not talking about the Calvin Kleins but rather small business owners. So to paraphrase another famous fashion competition,  ”Designers, start your engines…and may the best merino…WIN!” [WWD, sub req'd]

Story by Lester Brathwaite

I was center square from 1969 to 1978, during which I perfected the art of the zing as well as a crippling cocaine addiction. Bea Arthur was responsible for both. @LesFabian lester at