As the final round of the international Woolmark prize takes place in Dubai this month we sit with emerging talent and nominee, Taller Marmo, to talk competition, how the name was created and the support you get with being in the Middle East.
Back in 1953 the first International Woolmark Prize was first held as an initiative of the International Wool Secretariat. The following year the award was won by Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent. Today Italian and Argentinian designers Riccardo Audisio and Yago Goicoechea are being applauded by the fashion community and recognised as final round nominees in the regional finals for the Middle East and India womenswear category for Taller Marmo. What started off as an idea while dining at a restaurant in Milan in 2011, where the two were studying fashion design at Istituto Marangoni, has turned into a brand that continues to bridge Middle Eastern charm and nostalgia with European craftsmanship.
So you both met in Milan and decided to bring your creative juices together. What did you see in each other that made you think this would be the start of a successful collaboration?
Since we started school in Milan, we appreciated each other’s work, even if it was completely different. Our first talks about doing the brand were so natural because of that. Each one has skills that the other one hasn’t so we realised we were complementary in a very organic way.
Talk us through the name, Taller Marmo, what does it mean?
Taller means laboratory in Spanish while Marmo means marble in Italian. We wanted the name of the brand to be a synthesis of what we wanted to develop with our collections which is experimentation, craftsmanship and excellent materials.
Does it ever confuse people or does it have an unusual appeal?
It is a very metaphoric name for a brand but we decided not to use our own names to put the spotlight on the product and not on our personas. At the beginning it confused people as we received emails referring to us as Mr. Taller and Mr. Marmo – it’s a funny story after all.
Why did you decide to base the brand in the UAE over where it all started in Milan?
We thought a lot before leaving Milan but basing the company in Dubai was a spontaneous and instinctive decision in the end. The beautiful thing about Dubai is that, being a new city, you feel you can make history even in your smallest reality somehow. That is such a nice thing to offer to any young creative in any field.
We came to see you at Dubai Fashion Forward and your older model caused a happy controversy, what was the idea behind having a mature woman wearing your collection?
We decides to invite Caroline Labouchere and her daughter Mimi Labouchere to walk in our show because they summarise the core of our brand which is the pursuit of two main things: timeless pieces that pass through generations and collector’s items that remain in the women’s wardrobe forever.
What is the aesthetic and concept behind the brand?
Every season we explore Arab culture in every possible dimension and our love for cinema made us give a cinematic taste to every collection. The result of the combination of those two worlds is a very sleek and simple aesthetic with rich fabrics and details with a lot of cultural references.
Let’s talk competition! How did you get involved with the International Woolmark Prize?
We received an email from them while we were preparing the AW15/16 sales campaign in Milan and Paris which took us a couple of days to answer because we couldn’t believe it. It is a huge honour to receive a nomination from the Dubai Design and Fashion Council at our age.
Do you think it is essential for emerging brands to get involved with competitions like this?
The nomination for the Woolmark Prize always was and is still one of the biggest recognitions a brand can receive. It is a great opportunity to get involved with respected people from the fashion industry that can champion and guide you.
What has the process been like?
We have been developing the capsule collection for the Woolmark Prize for
a couple of months already, visiting the best Italian textile manufacturers and meeting artisans from every field that can add some unexpected finishing twists to the collection.
It must be a great way to learn and grow as a brand?
Absolutely. It gives you the chance to explore and experiment with materials (the Merino wool in this case) and allows you to learn so much as an emerging brand. On the other hand, it gives you the chance to present your brand in a focused way being a collection of only six looks.
What kind of support have you received throughout the process?
For example, while visiting Milano Unica, Milan’s textile trade fair, we had a meeting with The Woolmark Company and they suggested to us the most cutting-edge textile manufacturers that helped us a lot during the sourcing process.
Do you think there are advantages of being in the Middle East over Europe in terms of opportunities?
We feel very supported in the Middle East as a brand in every aspect and we did not have the experience of being an emergent brand in Europe but we are sure it wouldn’t be quite the same because of Europe’s brand saturation.