Wool is without any doubt one of the best raw materials for textile yarns. Its inherent properties
are still today second to none compared with any other fiber material. Decades ago, the
International Wool Seal (IWS) for pure new wool was probably the most popular label in the Western
world, sewn into countless pieces of wool apparel. First-class and traditional apparel brands with
their sophisticated double-twist fabrics from Great Britain were in the lead of the premier league
of the suit business.
Top Fiber Material
At the other end of the apparel bridge, silk was the pillar holding first place for highly
desired lingerie and outerwear. Silk was the leader for luxury lightweight fabrics, and wool was
the undisputed leader in high-end fabrics for medium- and heavyweight garments.
Both fibers nearly vanished from the top league in the last two decades, becoming commodities
for various reasons, which could be the subject of many additional Rupp Reports. In a nutshell, the
IWS label was sort of crushed between strong national interests from the main wool-producing
countries. For wool, fortunes have changed in the last few years.
The main wool-producing countries around the world got together and formed the International
Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO), based in Brussels, Europe’s “capital city.” The IWTO is the body
of the global wool trade, armed with a skillful crew and backed by the major wool-producing
countries around the world. A considerable number of documents have been produced to provide more
in-depth information about wool, and these are available online at
www.iwto.org. To exchange information among its members and its
very active technical committees, the IWTO organizes a congress every year somewhere on the planet.
This year, from May 3 to 5, Paris was the venue for the event.
and its sister magazines will publish more information of the event in forthcoming issues.
A Healthier And Safer Environment
Speakers from many sectors of the wool industry presented their papers under the slogan “Wool
— Change to a Healthier and Safer Environment.” And, in fact, there is a trend in the wool
industry, too, to produce the fibers in a better environment. And, needless to say, wool is
regaining its popularity, thanks to the work of IWTO and its member countries, but also thanks to
its natural qualities.
However, there are some clouds in the sky: wool is not only a pure, natural fiber, but,
moreover, it is an animal fiber from sheep and goats. And environmental and social consciousness,
mainly in the Western world, is increasing toward animal breeding. One session referred to the
positive efforts by the wool industry regarding animal welfare. Participants agreed to cooperate in
the future, ensuring that the welfare of the animals is in the center of attention. And the clock
Action, Not Reaction
In a discussion during the Q&A session, a young lady came up to the stage to accuse the
Australian wool breeders of mistreating their animals through the mulesing process. What was
striking was not whether she’s right or wrong, but, rather, the reaction of one panelist who is a
farmer: “We love our animals, we treat them right, we have been doing this [practicing mulesing]
for more than 100 years,” and so on. That is a strange reaction when a change of attitude on this
issue by the wool growers could and should help the wool industry regain the top place in the
premier league of fibers. Panelists were arguing that wool is “not a fiber of young people.” That’s
perfectly true, but wool has been used for thousands of years to protect the human body from the
elements. Old-fashioned production mills and methods such as mulesing in Australia have reinforced
the image of an old-fashioned textile industry in general, and an old-fashioned wool industry in
The Way Back To The Top
But what an opportunity for wool to rise to the top of young people’s minds: the animals are
raised completely in nature, they are not killed by harvesting the wool, and at the end of their
life cycle, the meat can be used to feed people. The list of positive reasons is never-ending. To
disregard modern and positive thinking in different cultures seems very shortsighted. If the wool
industry does not take seriously the concerns of the current generation of young people — respect
not only nature, but also the animals living in it — it would miss the biggest opportunity for
success. And, on top of that, the wool industry would be in trouble again — in spite of the fact
that nearly 80 percent of Australian wool is currently exported to China. The congress in Paris
could mark the start of a rethinking.
May 11, 2010