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Go Behind the Scenes at the 2015 U.S. Woolmark Prize Competition

We spoke with the nominees and judges during a grueling day-long presentation and judging process.

While it was only revived three years ago after a decades-long hiatus, the Woolmark Prize is still one of the most historically influential design competitions established to support emerging designers, credited with launching the careers of Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld in the '50s, among many others. The latest designers to join their ranks are New York-based Tanya Taylor and Siki Im, who won this year's U.S. prize for womenswear and menswear, respectively, and will go on to compete for the international prize.

The news was announced Wednesday evening at Milk Studios in New York, just hours after each of the 10 nominees delivered 15-minute presentations describing their brands (in tandem with a full look made from wool created specifically for the competition) to judges including Steven Kolb, John Varvatos, Francisco Costa and Ariel Foxman. Meanwhile, the designers mingled, stressed, prepped and lamented the challenges of the industry while awaiting their final decisions.

Tanya Taylor and her winning look. Photo: BFA

Tanya Taylor and her winning look. Photo: BFA

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We were there to witness and document the intense, seven-hour experience — all of which took place in the same building — and it was truly a rare opportunity to see how these high-stakes competitions go down. The U.S. winners each got AU $50,000 and the opportunity to win another AU $100,000 at the international competition, where their collections will be seen by buyers from Saks Fifth Avenue, Joyce, Colette and more.

As Kolb, who has judged this competition as well as the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund (the presentations for which took place the very next morning), stated, the designers were judged on their ability to explain their brand and their business goals, as well as their talent and ability to innovate with wool. Watch the above video to see several of the nominees explain how they did just that, and testimonials from the judges regarding why they chose who they chose.