Iconic fashion designer Jenny Kee presents her new Merino wool knitwear collection at the annual Women of Wool event.
Her visit to this year’s Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo might have been the first time Jenny Kee had been up close with a Merino ram, but the iconic Australian fashion designer is no stranger to Australian Merino wool.
For the past 40 years she has had a remarkable presence within the Australian fashion industry, with a passionately joyous and distinctly Australian approach to wool knitwear.
Working alongside The Woolmark Company, she has recently released a new collection of jumpers, cardigans, scarves and beanies, made from 100 per cent Australian Merino wool, which references seminal works from her vintage knitwear, including the new Blinky Knit which is a modern adaption of the original koala knit famously worn by Princess Diana in 1982.
Titled A New Beginning, her Woolmark-certified collection marks a wool revival and a trip down memory lane, continuing to draw inspiration from Australia’s cultural and natural landscape, and her love for Australian flora and fauna.
Adding a kaleidoscope of colour to the annual ‘Women of Wool’ lunch, sponsored by The Woolmark Company, Jenny helped illustrate the farm to fashion journey by not only giving the audience a rare insight into her colourful life, but also presenting her latest collection.
“Wool is the most incredible, beautiful fabric,” Jenny exclaimed. “And wool is a great product of this country.”
Jenny told how she first came into contact with the Woolmark brand more than 30 years ago when she was asked to make a hand-knitted outfit, comprising a skirt, jumper and poncho.
“It had the Woolmark logo going through it and my collaboration with Woolmark stayed there for over 30 years. I’ve had a wonderful association with them and it just seemed a natural thing that I would do knitwear again, with a little encouragement, and the collaboration grew into A New Beginning. It’s been the most incredible journey and I really love doing it.”
Using modern knitting technology, Jenny explained how digital knitting now allowed her to produce a collection with a “modern take”.
“The industry has changed in the past 40 years. Designs are now digitally knitted and not hand-knitted anymore. This collection is a global meld of exactly who I am,” she said, referencing her mother’s Italian heritage and her father’s Chinese background, highlighted by the Australian wool being spun in Italy by Zegna Baruffa and then going to the artisans of Hong Kong, before returning to Australia.
Joining Jenny on stage at the Women of Wool event as guest speakers were Influential Women founder and rural women advocate Catherine Marriott from Western Australia, innovative superfine wool producer Nan Bray from Tasmania, and Knit a Square charity founder Sandy McDonald. Each of these four women has greatly contributed to Australia’s wool industry, ensuring it remains as innovative and dynamic as possible.
“This is a community of women who love working with wool, working on the farm with wool, knitting with wool,” said Jenny. “This is a community of women working with wool, and it is WOW.”
It is events such as the Women of Wool that tie the entire industry together. Yet is the fashion element of the show that really allows woolgrowers to see, first-hand, the end product of their premium wool. With A New Beginning gaining broad media attention, it sparks the interest of everyday consumers to think about the story behind the product, with their attention rightly directed to the Australian wool industry and all the people who contribute to it.