New chairwomen for WoolOn event

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YVONNE O’HARA

yvonne.ohara@alliedpress.co.nz

The WoolOn Creative Fashion Event now has two new co-chairwomen as it works towards extensive plans for its future.

Originally from Auckland, Leonie Williamson was a corporate business consultant and has experience in market strategy development.

Karla Sanders, of Alexandra, is a teacher, one of the founders of the anti-bullying charity Sticks ‘n’ Stones, and has experience in the not-for-profit sector.

Both will share the position, a role vacated by Clair Higginson last month.

She will be stepping back from the event’s organisation but intends to remain in the background.

They are also looking for a volunteer financial controller.

Two years ago the WoolOn event moved away from its early Alexandra Blossom Festival links to become a stand-alone event, and it is now an incorporated society and registered charity, a move that allows it to apply for funding and grants.

“It is developing its own identity,” Ms Higginson said.

In addition the organisation’s committee is working to develop educational, sponsorship and woolgrower partnerships.

It will be holding preliminary talks with local woolgrowers, some of whom have wool supply contracts with manufacturers overseas that use the wool for high-end fashion garments and suits.

Further links could be developed to build on those relationships “from wool to the catwalk”, Ms Higginson said.

She said the event would be a platform for young and new designers to benchmark their designs and build portfolios.

Ms Williamson said in addition to talking to local sponsors, community and wool industry representatives, the committee was in early discussions with national education providers to create opportunities for new and young designers, a move that would take advantage of the increasing interest in handwork and handcrafts that has developed in the past five years.

She said an announcement about the results of those discussions was expected early next year.

“The team delivered an amazing event [earlier this year] and we have got significant support from the community to make next year’s event bigger and better,” Mrs Williamson said.

Mrs Sanders said the collaborations would encourage creative and design excellence and, as well as developing strong links to woolgrowing in the region, the possibility of finding another Karen Walker designer made the moves exciting.

The group recently held a function to attract new committee members and other volunteers.

Ms Higginson said about 20 people attended and there were now three new committee members, each of whom had experience which would prove invaluable.

The committee had also established a working group of volunteers who would provide help and expertise to help run the event but who might not want to be on a committee.

Ms Higginson said the new co-chairwomen provided experience and wisdom to create a strong strategy, which would create future certainty for the event.

She said a resurgence in the interest in using wool for fashion garments, along with its versatility, made WoolOn an important and positive event for both the wool industry and for Central Otago.

Next year’s WoolOn will be held on August 17 and 18.