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The Wool Wire | March 6, 2024

Celebrating kids celebrating wool, plus 50 years of Benetton and Woolmark, the first Canadian wool standard, and New Zealand's push to bring wool innovation to life. Plus, podcasts and peat!

Clara Parkes
Clara Parkes
4 min read
The Wool Wire | March 6, 2024
Why hello there! // Photo by Kjell-Jostein Sivertsen / Unsplash

News snippets from the wool world

Hello, my wool friends!

I'm writing you from my childhood dining table in Tucson, Arizona, where—decades ago—my thirst for wool was quenched by a thrilling new store called Benetton, which opened in an equally thrilling shopping mall that featured not one but two floors.

Imagine!

Wool sweaters may not seem like a fit for the Arizona desert, and yet the store was an instant hit. (Imagine the crowds at an Apple store today, but with '80s haircuts.) I still cherish several sweaters from that era.

Of course times change, and trends shift. Benetton eventually closed all its stores in the U.S.—but the brand never went away. In fact, this year Benetton is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its partnership with Woolmark by producing a whopping 1.5 million Woolmark-certified, 100% Merino wool garments in its Autumn/Winter 2023-24 collection.

Benetton’s 50-year Woolmark partnership
Fashion giant Benetton has launched more than 1.5 million, Woolmark-certified, 100% Merino wool knitwear garments in its Autumn/Winter 2023/24 collection. The knitwear was launched alongside a marketing campaign that commemorates a half century partnership between Benetton and The Woolmark Company and the enduring legacy of Merino wool.

It's important to note that Benetton was one of the 50+ global fashion brands whose supply chain included the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, where more than 1,100 workers died in 2013 when the building collapsed.

Since then, the company has made progress in auditing its supply chain and providing greater transparency to consumers. Each product listing on the website now includes a "transparency" tab listing the country, city, and manufacturer of that garment. It's a good start.


Talking shop

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of talking with Peg Allen, one of the people behind Vermont's Junction Fiber Mill. Since launching their Millcast podcast a year ago, they've filled it with all sorts of good wool geekery—not just mill tours but event recaps and interviews with other woolheads.


Save our peatlands...with sheep!

While you're over on YouTube, be sure to check out my latest Wool Short. In it, I share how wool is being used to save peatlands in Wales—and how similar approaches could be used elsewhere in the world.


Getting kids to dig wool... literally

How do you get young people excited about something as elemental as the fibers in their clothes? By handing them a shovel and letting them dig in the dirt, that's how.

This story begins in New Zealand in 2018, when students at St John’s School in Ranfurly buried a textile time capsule. It contained two jerseys: the school jersey, made of synthetic fabric; and a woolen windbreaker with a plastic lining and zipper.

Fast-forward to the end of 2023, when students and staff unearthed their bounty. The synthetic jersey was completely intact, having only lost its cotton badge with the school's logo on it. Meanwhile, all that remained of the woolen windbreaker was the plastic lining and zipper.

The students were astounded, witnessing firsthand how wool had not only broken down but had become a natural fertiliser, contributing to the growth of lush grass. 
Proud schoolkids display their bounty. // Farmers Weekly

Now the students have buried another capsule with one of the school's (now woolen) jumpers, a piece of synthetic carpet, raw wool, and plastic bottles.

In a world that is overflowing with plastic, what a terrific way to teach kids why the fiber in your clothes matters. Perhaps it's time to get similar programs up and running in other schools too?

Digging into the wonders of wool
Primary school science experiment makes a point about fibre’s sustainability.

A new resource showcasing wool innovations

We've talked about New Zealand's wool growers and their struggle to remain viable. Now, operating on the assumption that two heads can be better than one, the advocacy and resource hub Wool Impact has formed an alliance with Campaign for Wool New Zealand. A revamped website showcases cool things happening with New Zealand strongwool, and a newly appointed "navigator" is there to help companies innovate with New Zealand wool.

The website will be a good place to keep a watch out for what's coming.

Wool Impact launches navigator tool
Aim is to connect individuals and businesses with the necessary expertise to bring innovative wool ideas to life.

O Canada

Finally, let's extend a hearty congratulations to Canada's wool producers for creating a formal Canadian Wool Standard. They released it back in December, when Canada played host to the IWTO Workshop conference in Montreal.

This was an effort to begin to quantify the types and qualities of the Canadian clip alongside the best practices required to get the most value from the market.

Because sheep and their wool vary by geography, it's important for each region to have its own standards. Otherwise, they're just trying to measure themselves against someone else's benchmarks—which is just a recipe for frustration.

On that note, I'll let you get back to your day. Thanks, as always, for reading—and thank you for your curiosity and support of this most worthwhile fiber.

Until next time,

Clara

News

Clara Parkes

Wool is life. I make The Wool Channel go.

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