Fashion Lasting Forever WOOL
Wool has been used in clothing for millennia: from primitive man first clothing himself in the woolly skins of wild sheep through the civilisation of Babylonia where people first distinguished wool sheep from food sheep, through Roman times when there were definite signs of selective breeding for a superior fleece, and through to the ascendancy of wool during the Middle Ages in Europe. By the late eighteenth century, the Industrial Revolution began a movement which took the textile industry from the home into the workshop and factory.
Merino sheep developed in Spain and were highly prized for their fine wool. In 1797, the first Merino sheep, derived from the famed Royal Merino Flocks of Spain, were introduced into Australia. Although these sheep had already evolved a fine fibre, further selective breeding by Australian farmers soon produced the authentic Australian Merino with its even finer wool.
Merino wool has played, and continues to play, a major role in international fashion. Being highly resilient, wool had predominantly been used in utilitarian garments, particularly military uniforms and work wear. But wool's big fashion break came in the decade following the First World War when Coco Chanel reinvented the fashion rules and produced a dress from fine wool jersey. Since then, wool has always been used in fashion.
The end of the Second World War heralded another fashion revolution called 'The New Look'. Launched by the House of Christian Dior, the style used excessive amounts of wool fabric in designs as a backlash against the rations and shortages of the war years.
In 1954, young designer Yves Saint Laurent won first and third prizes in the dress category of the International Wool Secretariat competition in Paris while a young Karl Lagerfeld won first prize in the coat category. Accepting their respective fashion design prizes, from a judging panel which included Hubert de Givenchy and Pierre Balmain, fashion history was made.
Over the years, classic and much-loved looks have benefitted from wool's qualities. From the little black dress, to the V-neck jumper, to fine tailored suits, wool has timeless appeal. Today, fashion designers and woolgrowers across the world continue to work alongside the best textile manufacturers to produce quality wool apparel and connect consumers with its natural benefits.
Different types of wool
Not all wool is the same. Some wool is softer than cashmere, while others are hardier and more resilient, suitable for carpets and bedding. Wool can be divided into three main categories, based on the micron (diameter) of each fibre.
Fine: Wool with the finest micron comes from Merino sheep and is used for high-quality, soft-handling fabrics and knitting yarns. Fine wool is highly valued by the world’s leading fashion houses.
Medium: Medium micron wool can be produced from a type of Merino or produced by crossing one breed with another (crossbreeding). Medium wools are used in a variety of woven apparel cloths, knitting yarns and furnishings.
Broad: Many different sheep breeds produce broader wools. Often these breeds are known as dual-purpose breeds because they are farmed with equal emphasis on meat and wool. Broad wool is useful for products such as carpets because of its strength and durability
The average micron of human hair is between 50 to 100 micron. Merino wool is generally less than 22 micron, which shows just how soft this premium fibre is.
Wool Is a Low Impact Fibre
Wool has long been accepted as an environmentally positive fibre choice with a number of benefits, such as being 100% natural, renewable and biodegradable. Not to mention that it is thermo-regulating, easy to care for, and can be repaired and enjoyed for years and years.
Increased consumer anxiety over climate change and a desire for complete transparency has challenged every brand to rethink their approach to business and best practice. This includes their material choices - the fibres selected to create products, and how these materials are produced.
Wool is part of the natural carbon cycle
Many textiles and fibres are made from carbon-based products, but only some, such as wool, are made from renewable atmospheric carbon. When disposed of, wool acts like a fertiliser by slowly releasing valuable nutrients and carbon back into the soil.
Wool and the circular economy
Wool, by nature a circular fibre, can help brands enter more easily into the development of circular products. Many brands and designers are asking themselves how they can shift into a circular business model and create circular products while still turning a profit? In the Material Circularity Indicator by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, wool gets the highest score possible. Renewable, recyclable and boasting a long use phase, wool and wool products have meaningful, positive impacts throughout its lifecycle.
Wool Seamless Technology
Traditionally, wool base-layer apparel was made by cut and sew production with limited possibilities for variety. Now, however, circular and flat-knitting technologies are being employed to manufacture not only next-to-skin base-layers, but an extensive range of mid- and outer-layer garments too in a seamless construction.
New wool and wool-rich yarns are being developed specifically for this type of seamless knitting, with enhanced yarn strength through core or wrap-spun spinning technologies.
What’s so unique about seamless apparel is that it allows for a combination of different patterns and knit stitches in different colours on the one piece of fabric. By engineering a garment to have features such as compression and breathability points on a single surface, it encourages greater structure diversity and comfort along with enhanced protection.
Merino Wool Denim
As denim continues to remain one of the world’s most popular fabrics, it was only a matter of time before brands began incorporating a high-performance fibre such as Merino wool into their denim.
Denim is a twill fabric traditionally made from a dyed cotton warp yarn with an undyed weft yarn. Previous attempts to create wool/cotton blends in denim have used an intimate blend of wool with cotton - two fibres which are not easy to combine in a yarn. Yet production developments including the use of machine washable wool yarns have led to a more cost-effective way to produce Wool Denim without having to intimately blend wool with cotton.
Italian contemporary luxury brand Max Mara cleverly incorporated wool denim into its already wool-rich collection, offering consumers a luxury alternative to traditional denim apparel. Using ecological dyeing recipes that imitate natural indigo, the 100% Wool Denim pieces were fade resistant.