This new Australian fashion brand is on a mission to show that wool is a logical solution in a world suffering the effects of synthetic fabrics.
Synthetic fibers are terrible for the environment. In an article last week, I discussed the release of massive amounts of plastic fibers into water every time synthetic clothes are washed and the profound implications this has on the world, particularly marine environments. It is crucial that we clothing-wearers prioritize natural fibers whenever possible, seeking out fabrics like organic cotton, linen, jute, and wool.
Wool, in particular, is a remarkable material, made from the simple combination of sunlight, grass, and water. It is fully biodegradable and recyclable, an ‘active’ fiber that reacts to changes in body temperature, keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter. And when it comes to keeping warm, wool does the job far better than any plastic-based fleece. Just go on a hike in the snow wearing wool socks, and you’ll see what a difference it makes.
Wool has been criticized in recent years for the practice of mulesing, when strips of wool-bearing skin are cut away from a sheep’s rear end in order to inhibit fly infestations. Mulesing is standard procedure for the majority of wool producers in New Zealand and Australia, and has, not surprisingly, become a rallying cry for many animal rights’ groups who want people to boycott wool. The entire global wool industry has suffered as a result.
This is unfortunate, because there are ways of making wool production ethical. Not all sheep have to be mulesed, and when that practice is taken out of the equation, it’s difficult to argue that wool production is bad for the animals or the planet. (One could say that wearing synthetic fabrics is far crueler to the countless marine animals who suffocate and die in large numbers from ingesting plastic fibers.)
One farm called Glenwood, in New South Wales, Australia, is on a mission to prove that merino wool is the most ethical, sustainable fiber in the world. Glenwood, which is run by sixth-generation sheep farmers and fifth-generation wool producers Norm and Pip Smith, raises a special variety of sheep called SRS Merino, bred to have a smooth skin that does not require mulesing.
Both regular and SRS Merino sheep produce the same amount of wool fleece, but the SRS Merino sheep has exceptionally high levels of fibre density and length that result in a fabric that feels more like cashmere than traditional wool. The sheep are shorn every 8 months—a quick, simple procedure—and are then left to roam.
“It could be said that Merino is the only fibre in the world that helps to regenerate the land. Our Merino sheep are managed to mimic nature, grazing in large mobs for short periods of time before moving paddocks, allowing the land to rest and regenerate its native flora as it has done for thousands of years.
“Our unique approach to grazing has led to the re-emergence of unique species of native grasses thought to be extinct in this area and allows for the regeneration of the top soil - reducing the impacts of drought.
“We monitor the farm’s progress twice a year using indicators such as the percentage of ground cover, type of ground cover, number of native perennials, evidence of organisms and the type of perennials.”
The Smiths recently launched a brand called LoveMerino that sells exquisite merino scarves made exclusively from the wool raised on their farm. Woven locally and printed by local textile artisans and designers, these scarves are traceable back to a specific flock on the farm. Co-founder Ian Smith told TreeHugger, “This is the first time this has been possible. LoveMerino is a lifelong dream for the Smith family and is six generations in the making.”
For consumers who want to know where a product comes from, how it was produced, and what the story is behind the brand, the LoveMerino website and online Etsy store are worth a leisurely visit. (Note: Free worldwide shipping is available temporarily.) The scarves are exquisite, limited edition, and the first of hopefully many collections from this farm that’s working so hard to care for the planet and their beautiful animals.