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WoolOn 2018 Winners Raise The Bar

Gore Designer’s WoolOn Dress On Point

A one-shouldered dress that started turning heads from the first moment it appeared on the WoolOn catwalk on Friday has become the Supreme Award winner for the Rural Women New Zealand WoolOn Awards 2018.

For The Love of Spring by Andre Johnston - Rural Women New Zealand WoolOn Supreme Winner

Andre Johnston from Gore collected the $5000 Award in Alexandra last night for her contemporary cross-stitched creation ‘For the Love of Spring’. Johnston, who has been designing for twenty years, said the bright creation took “two hundred to three hundred” hours to make.

Andre Johnston receiving the WoolOn Supreme Award presented by Rural Women New Zealand national president Fiona Gower

The array of garments, and the event itself, were both highly praised by visiting guests, including Rural Women New Zealand national president Fiona Gower.

She shared the sentiment of many audience members, in expressing her awe of the talent and skill of the designers.

“How they turned a raw product into those garments…it’s just such a marriage of a quality product with creative minds. Those outfits were world-class.”

Gower said wool remained the backbone of many rural communities in New Zealand and believed it had a positive future as a remarkably versatile, sustainable product.

“I have great faith in what we can do, it’s all about getting people working together and with shows like this, if we can get the word out there, I think anything’s possible.”

The WoolOn Organising Committee could be very proud of their event, she said, as could local businesses who had supported it through sponsorship.

“We are very pleased to be part it, to be supporting our rural communities and we loved the show.”

The event encourages designers to experiment with new ways of working with wool.

Head judge Simon Swale of Dunedin said Johnston’s piece was contemporary and modern, while using traditional craft in a highly-skilled way.

“It was very clever, it played to the traditional but the work looked almost digital. There was nothing else like it.”

Swale, senior lecturer at Otago Polytechnic School of Design, said the entries overall were “bigger, bolder and more ambitious”.

Auckland-based judge Cushla Reed commended entrants, many of whom have been crafting wool for decades to gain the skills required, for designing with the catwalk in mind.

“They were bold. The felting category in particular actually blew me away. How they took that traditional look and made it modern.”

Fifty-four garments were on show in an industrial warehouse, transformed for two nights into a glitzy fashion venue. Tickets had sold out months prior for the Saturday event, and nearly 800 people attended over the weekend, co-chairperson Leonie Williamson said.

The event was officially opened by the Hon. Damien O’Connor, Minister of Agriculture who urged the crowd to ask for wool when buying clothing and help spread the word about New Zealand wool to the world.

Colonial Cool Wins Collections

Tweedle Dee by Becs Calder - Central Appliance Plus & Miele Collections Winner

Tweed, crocheting and merino wool mesh came together in the winning Collections Category entry judges described as ‘colonial cool’. Becs Calder from Omakau kept her stunning design true to Central Otago right down to the buttons, fashioned from the horns of a merino ram.

New categories for novice designers and wool accessories had attracted good entries, boding well for the future of the event, Mrs Williamson said.

Let it Rain by Tania Irons - Tall Poppy Real Estate Novice Winner

Tania Irons bold interpretation of her home province, Central Otago, going from drought to lush green after rain was a crowd pleaser, taking out the novice section.

Both the Avant Garde and Special Occasion categories were won by Napier designer Laurel Judd, a seasoned competitor who first entered WoolOn in 2006. Her machine-knitted merino lace gown complete with bejewelled looking glass was described by the judges as “a real life fairytale”.

Avant-garde category won by Laurel Judd with 'Mirror Image'


  • Streetwear: Perfection in Pink by Viv Tamblyn (Gore)

  • Handcrafted: For the Love of Spring by Andre Johnston (Gore)

  • Felted: In the Pink by Heather Kerr (Wanaka). Highly Commended, Circle of Life by Maureen Mckenzie (Alexandra)

  • Novice: Let it Rain by Tania Irons (Becks). Highly Commended, Nifty Chic by Beverly Baker (Alexandra)

  • Collections: Tweedle Dee by Becs Calder (Omakau)

  • Special Occasions: Barcelona by Laurel Judd (Napier)

  • Avant-garde: Mirror Image by Laurel Judd (Napier)

  • Accessories: Diamond Herringbone by Sue Mclean (Oamaru). Highly Commended, Autumn Warmth by Gillian Parkinson (Roxburgh)

  • Under 23 Award: Expression of Tartan by Neesha Johnston (Havelock)

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