London's National Wool Week Celebrates This Sustainable Material

exmoor sheep photo

Photo: B. Alter

Dozens of sheep grazed happily in the sun on Savile Row, home to London's most prestigious tailors. They were there to promote National Wool Week, a campaign to support sheep farming and the British wool industry.

gled carding photo

Photo: B. Alter

Exmoor Horns and Bowmont sheep came to town, accompanied by an exhibition by R. Gledhill, who card and spin British wool into yarn which then gets spun into cloth which is then used by Savile Row tailors to make bespoke suits.

In celebration, many of Mayfair's most distinguished tailors -- including Hardy Amies -- opened their doors to the public, offering tours, demo's and archival exhibitions. A new range of tweeds has been designed, using wool from the Exmoor Horn sheep. The farmer (some farmer!) is wearing a suit of the new cloth.

Wool is a sustainable natural product and has fallen out of fashion lately with the rise of disposable cheap fashion. The Prince of Wales has kick-started a Campaign for Wool to get manufacturers and the public to recognize its virtues. He has teamed up with top fashion brands like Burberry, and stores such as John Lewis and Marks and Spencer, as well as manufacturers to modernize the image of this great material.

merino sheep photo

Photo: B. Alter British Bowmonts

The Bowmont sheep are a cross between Saxon Merino (75%) and Shetland (25%) and are very close to the Australian Merinos. They were bred here 25 years ago because of the need for Merino wool. Instead of importing Merino wool from Australia and New Zealand, they are breeding this new sheep here. The British Bowmont is the only breed in the UK with the potential to create a fibre capable of matching the fineness of Merino.

liberty sheep photo

Photo: B. Alter

There is a lot to celebrate. The UK flock is the largest in the European Union with 15 million breeding sheep and 52,000 producers. There are approximately 32 million sheep and lambs in the UK from 60 different breeds. The 35,000 - 40,000 tonnes of wool produced each year provide an additional income for farmers producing meat.

wojo chair photo

Image from 3

Even Starbucks has got into the woolly mode. They have received a prize for "WoJo", a new fabric made from 70% sustainable New Zealand wool woven with jute fibers from Starbucks recycled coffee sacks. It is going to be used in 8,000 stores in the next 5 years.

More on Wool
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