Wool Is Facing The 21st Century

Date:9/21/2016 1:48:15 PM

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. Textile World 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 is ticking.


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 particular.


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.