As you can see from this visibly straining shirt (unbuttoned for comfort, not for styling prowess) and my poor attempt at doubling up menswear trousers as maternity wear, the bump is now fully out there. Bearing in mind, this was two weeks ago during London Fashion Week and now obviously, it has grown to even more grand proportions. The one saving grace in this bit of I-don’t-do-maternity-wear experimentation is the diverting antics of a beautiful jacket by British duo Teatum Jones from their Woolmark Prize-winning collection, that has now dropped into stores worldwide, with its primary panels of wool lace and a waxed coated finishing over the embroidered checkered wool that makes it hard to believe it’s 80% Merino wool.
Photograph by Jonathan Daniel Pryce for Vogue.co.uk
Photographed by Paul Gonzales/London Fashion by Paul – Wearing Teatum Jones Woolmark Prize “Quincy” jacket with Toga shirt, Ximon Lee trousers, Prada shoes and J.W. Anderson Pierce bag
Actually, the entire collection comprises a myriad of deceptive textures as Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones went deep into their research into the making of their collection from start to finish. “We are real believers in education,” said Teatum. “We immersed ourselves in all things wool and exposed ourselves to the entire supply chain. We are also inspired by human stories; people who fight for what they believe in. We research this person and their story in a very primary level way – the places where they lived, if they are still alive we talk to them, read about them or listen to their music.”
That fascination began with an English nun Agnes Moirragh Bernard, who envisioned a Wool Utopia in 1892, and founded the Foxford Woolen Mills in County Mayo in Ireland. To this day, the mill is still producing throws, scarves and other woolen goods, prompting Teatum and Jones to produce their own backpacker’s blankets there, complete with leather holsters. The physical integration of that potent starting point into Teatum Jones’ production process gives solid credence to the collection. It’s a very human story of economic emancipation through cloth and craft that really resonated with me, when I first saw the collection presented back in February.
The geometric foiled borders on those Foxford blankets led them to work with a 130 year old French guipere lace mill in Northern France, which prompted a new textile discovery. “We absolutely loved the lace they created but they had never really considered working with wool,” said Jones. “In an almost Disney-like scenario, if you can imagine it, you can create it. In our heads it was a simple transition: swapping nylon or polyester or cotton for Merino wool yarns. There was lots of trial and error with different yarn counts and different suppliers, but in the end we achieved what we set out to do and created a truly innovative and unique Merino wool lace.” To give the collection extra verve, they then ended up in Italy to develop a stretch wool with elastane, that would then be bonded to the lace to create a more pliable foundation.
The stand-out pieces are of course the ones where the origin of the collection are on full display like the skirts with blanket tassel edging, the primary-hued geometric lace patternation, where coated embroidery and that beautiful Merino lace come together. In the body conscious skirts, cut-out tops and slimline trousers, that stretch wool bonded with the lace really comes into its own. balancing out with the more traditional thin Merino polonecks and chunky knit jumpers.
The collection is currently available at Harvey Nichols, Saks Fifth Avenue, Leclaireur, Isetan, Boon the Shop and online on MyTheresa.com. The Quincy jacket from the collection, that I got to wear must have caught someone’s eye as it’s currently sold out on the Saks site. For Teatum Jones, the wooly journey goes on as their current A/W 16 collection used 80% Merino wool and in the ever trans-seasonal ways of working, 40-50% of wool managed to creep into their S/S 17 collection. “We are honoured and excited and it’s just the beginning; we have only scratched the surface,” said Teatum. “This award lets us ignite the magic of wool, so the customer sees the romance in wool.” It’s this modern day imagining of Sister Agnes’ Wool-Topia that unlocks innovation in this age-old natural fibre.