Wool – whats the happenin’

We didn’t start out intending to work in the Wool industry. From inception we tasked ourselves with creating solutions for the vast amount of fibre that goes to waste. It was while working with Starbucks designing new products from their huge amount of used coffee sacks that the light bulb moment of blending the waste fibre with wool occurred.

While the idea may have been beautifully simple the execution was not quite so easy. Coming from farming families we were very familiar with wool, but through our work found ourselves falling in love with the fibre and actively searching out projects were we could incorporate wool. Unfortunately we also found ourselves entering the wool industry amidst turmoil, but also in the infancy of the global Campaign for Wool.

The Campaign patroned by His Royal Highness Prince Charles has gone from strength to strength with global wool events, and doing a great job of bringing a measure of solidarity across wool producing countries. Aside from a few little blips like Wools of New Zealand’s (who, despite their name only represent a minority of NZ wool) recent and unnecessary disparaging comments about UK and Aussie wool. The rest of the industry is pressing on determined to grasp this opportunity to turn the wool industry from its once fairly brutal play ground into one of maturity, transparency and market leading behaviour in order to realise the huge opportunities for wool.

Unified behaviour is necessary to avoid the undermining of the industry, especially when there are more important tasks at hand that need addressing. Such as the poor rating wool has on the Higgs Index which was released in 2012. The index attempts to measure the environmental costs of garments. Developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition their aim is to eventually be able to give a number rating to each garment produced. A bit like calorie counting, buyers will be able to select garments based on their environmental rating, so it’s vital that wool and synthetics are measured in an equitable way.

Patagonia is bucking the US garment trend and making a move to wool, Patagonian Merino wool in fact and in the process working to restore Patagonia’s grasslands: http://www.ecotextile.com/2013021311913/fashion-retail-news/patagonia-backs-patagonian-wool.

Other great news is The International Woolmark Prize which was awarded at London Fashion week to Belgian designer Christian Wijnants. Judged by Victoria Beckham, Donatella Versace, Diane von Furstenberg, Franca Sozzani and Tim Blanks. Christian, along with this prestigious award also scored contracts to sell in fashion stores around the world: http://vimeo.com/59835209

Closer to home Shear Fashion is the first fashion show being held in conjunction with Golden Shears. Masterton New Zealand will become wool fashion central on Thursday February 28th 2013, if you haven’t got your tickets yet they are available here: http://www.dashtickets.co.nz/event/2792\

Sandra Faulkner in her recently released Nuffield Report on the New Zealand Wool Industry provides clear and concise steps for the revival of this once proud industry. Among these steps she encourages the support of The Campaign for Wool. Next up on their calendar is the biggest ever celebration of wool, The Campaign for Wool will be launching ‘Wool House’ at Somerset House in London.

The event will showcase fashion and interiors alongside artisan pieces. The entrance will be styled like a grand country house, leading designers have been commissioned to design individual rooms which will feature alongside a huge wool installation by Dutch tapestry artist Claudy Jongstra. A 34 metre bespoke runner featuring pixilated woollen squares created by Spanish designer Cristian Zunzunaga and Shauna Richardson’s Crochetdermy Bear (previously exhibited at the V&A) will be on show while the hallway will be lined with Warhol inspired sheep head images. The exhibition runs from 13th – 24th March with free admission.

The wool industry can take inspiration from companies such as Air New Zealand, who with good leadership transformed the airline from an “also ran” into a company whose culture extends beyond its employees and makes all New Zealander’s proud. The wool industry can aspire to and is highly capable of engendering similar pride. While it is clearly difficult times for wool farmers, it would seem the world is conspiring to help. Consumers are becoming ever more aware of the environmental costs of goods, demand is rising for goods that are kinder on our planet. This is where wool comes into it’s own. With our collective best efforts and wools innate desirable qualities it should soon be hitting its stride.

Want to know more about The Formary? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlfI_IdHF0Q or visit: www.theformary.com