Meet the Winner

Alicia Ferreira de Sousa from L’École de la Maille de Paris was today announced the winner of the inaugural adidas x Woolmark Performance Challenge, presented at a special event during Outdoor Retailer, Denver, Colorado. The Woolmark Performance Challenge is a new annual competition for tertiary students aimed at pushing the limits of product innovation and is set to kick-start the career of Alicia.

The award was judged by a highly esteemed panel of judges, including Amanda Parkes - Chief Innovation Officer, Fashion Tech Lab; Christopher Bevans - Creative Director & Owner, Dyne; Jamie Lisanti - Special Projects Editor, Sports Illustrated; Julie Davies - General Manager, Processing Innovation & Education Extension, The Woolmark Company; Kristin Hostetter - Editor in Chief, SNEWS; Louis de Vos - Talent Acquisition Manager, adidas; and Tillmann Studrucker - Senior Design Director, adidas.

“As an aerobic gymnast, Alicia brought her knowledge of the body’s movement and combined it with science to highlight the functionality and benefits of Australian Merino wool’s properties. She found a way to bring this together with a unique and technical innovation, that is applicable to many sports,” explained Jamie Lisanti, Sports Illustrated.

Fellow judge Tillmann Studrucker commented: “It is incredible how many great innovations we saw from students in this open collaboration between adidas and The Woolmark Company. It was not easy to nominate the final winner. In the end, we went for the person who shared the number one principle of our founder Adi Dassler - ‘only the best for the athlete’ - helping them to perform better in their sport using the benefits of wool. I want to thank everyone involved in making this competition a success and for giving these students a platform to show their talent.”

adidas x Woolmark Performance Challenge Alicia Ferreira de Sousa

“Winning the Woolmark Performance Challenge marks the beginning of an aspiration coming true: a sportswear specialization to engage my own wellbeing and confidence in sports performance,” said Alicia. “My main goal was to make a textile that connects and communicates with the body; and Merino wool supports the wearer’s needs in any situation or environment to enhance performance.”

Alicia will now receive a cash prize of €10,000 (approx. $11,300 USD), a three-month internship with adidas, the opportunity to sell the winning idea along with ongoing industry and training support from The Woolmark Company.

More than 500 students from 58 universities across Europe and North America registered to take part in the adidas x Woolmark Performance Challenge. The 10 finalists were:

  • Alicia Ferreira de Sousa - L’École de la Maille de Paris - France
  • Christel Thue Høgsted - University of Oregon - USA
  • Inga Grether - Albstadt-Sigmaringen University - Germany
  • Jeni Allison - Heriot Watt University - UK
  • Lihong Lao - Cornell University, Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design - USA
  • Marlies Reukers - Amsterdam Fashion Institute, HvA - Netherlands
  • Martin Stricker - ECAL/Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne - Switzerland
  • Olivia Echols - University of Oregon - USA
  • Phoebe Edwards - Nottingham Trent University - UK; and
  • Youngmi Kim - Institut Français de la Mode - France.

The 10 finalists who took part in the inaugural adidas x Woolmark Performance Challenge.

“The rapid growth in demand for technical textiles has significantly boosted wool’s prominence in the sportswear industry and the fibre’s naturally inherent qualities - such as effective odour control, superb breathability and moisture management properties - cannot be matched by any man-made fibre,” said The Woolmark Company Managing Director Stuart McCullough. “The adidas x Woolmark Performance Challenge not only allows wool to enter a new phase in product development, but provides an excellent opportunity for Alicia, and I congratulate her on this exciting win.

“Registrations for the next edition of the competition are now open and we invite college students from across the world to apply.”



The 2018 Finalists


In its inaugural year the Woolmark Performance Challenge attracted 510 student registrations from 58 Universities from across Europe and North America. The inaugural winner of the Woolmark Performance Challenge will be announced on 9 November 2018 at Outdoor Retailer in Denver, Colorado.

The 10 finalists for the 2017/18 Woolmark Performance Challenge are:

Jeni Allison
MA Knitwear (Design, Heritage and Production)
Heriot Watt University, UK

“I am interested in combining the naturally occurring technical properties of Merino wool with innovations in technology and knitwear production to create beautiful activewear which both inspires and allows people to be fitter in their everyday lives.”

Youngmi Kim
Postgraduate Program - Major in garment (Womenswear)
Institut Français de la Mode, France

“And the story must continue.”

Lihong Lao
Ph.D. candidate in Materials Science and Engineering (Fiber Science)
Cornell University, Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design, USA

“My research interest is surface chemistry for different fibrous materials to enable different new functionalities, such as for Merino wool fibres.”

Marlies Reukers
International Fashion Design (BSc of Fashion and Textile Technologies)
Amsterdam Fashion Institute, AMFI, Netherlands

“Refined Merino knits played an important role in my pursuit of comfort optimisation. Merino wool was responsible for the thermal sense of comfort, while I used 3D virtual prototyping to analyse and increase mobility features and the freedom of movement.”

Martin Stricker
Industrial Design
ECAL/Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne, Switzerland

“Now I truly want a Merino sheep in my garden.”

Alicia Ferreira de Sousa
Knitwear Design
L’École de la Maille de Paris, France

“‘Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed’ - Lavoisier. This quote was my guideline in my work for this project with Merino wool. Take inspiration from the existential elements and behaviours of nature in order to rethink, improve, revalorize and recycle them to open useful fields of applications, both sustainable and ecological.”

Christel Thue Høgsted
Master of Science in Sports Product Design
University of Oregon, USA

“We need to develop an alternative to the massive use of man-made fibres used in sports apparel. With the newest innovations within Merino wool we can now create high-performance products with low environmental impact.”

Olivia Echols
Master of Science in Sports Product Design
University of Oregon, USA

“What I find most interesting about Merino wool, is that it already has so many of the amazing benefits that synthetics try to replicate. Why recreate what already occurs in the natural world?”

Inga Grether
Textile Management
Albstadt-Sigmaringen University, Germany

“The combination of modern technology with natural materials is the sustainability of the future. This would be my first experience in working with Merino.”

Phoebe Edwards
Fashion Knitwear Design Masters Degree
Nottingham Trent University, UK

“As a specialist in performance-wear and knit innovation, I have identified a niche in the skiwear base-layer industry, using Merino wool's incredible performance properties to combine technical knit structure placement with anatomy and biomechanical considerations such as muscle identification with stretch, compression, heat harnessing, joint support and ventilation allocations to combat the challenge of fashion vs functionality within a second skin supporting base layer.”