“To be a true luxury brand today you have to have a strong commitment to raw material.” Our #ResponsibleWool Standard in Wallpaper Magazine for supply chain transparency & ethical animal welfare. We’re proud of our members StellaMcCartney, H&M, Theory, Control Union and Chargeurs Wool for their leadership in wool.
Story by Wallpaper Magazine | February 23, 2018 | Written by Laura Hawkins | PHOTOGRAPHY: GEORDIE WOOD
Renewable, warm, odour-resistant, non-flammable, hypoallergenic, elastic, soft, wrinkle-free: wool is a natural fibre with a lot going for it. Yet according to a 2017 report by the global non-profit organisation Textile Exchange, wool and down accounts for only 1.3 per cent of the world’s fibre production. This is partly due to a communication problem: ‘Over the last half a century, consumer messaging on wool has been confusing,’ says Alberto Rossi, business development manager of Organica, a new arm of French company Chargeurs Luxury Materials, one of the world’s leading suppliers of premium wool fibre. Cheap synthetic alternatives now have a 68.3 per cent share of the textiles market.
Increasingly savvy luxury consumers understand the environmental cost of producing and disposing of synthetic materials, but they are also often aware of some of the downsides of wool production, including animal cruelty, worker exploitation and pollution. Which explains why, as the luxury goods groups get serious about sustainability and look to overhaul their manufacturing and supply chains, producers are busy polishing their environmental credentials.
Chargeurs Luxury Materials promised a traceable and sustainable supply chain when it launched its Organica precious fibre last autumn. ‘Through the development of new global standards, we want to become the game changer of the luxury natural fibre world,’ says Michaël Fribourg, the Chargeurs group’s chairman and CEO. Establishing those standards means hitting suppliers with a lengthy list of protocols, covering animal and environmental welfare, land management and corporate social responsibility.
This value chain begins with over 3,500 growers across Patagonia, Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand and the United States, many of whom Chargeurs has worked with for generations, and some of whom will be certified with the Organica standard. One of them is Estancia Cerro Buenos Aires, an 11,000-hectare farm in El Calafate, Patagonia, which produces 25-30 tonnes of wool per year, and fleeces 1,000 animals a day during the week-long autumn shearing season. Organica’s growers produce ‘greasy wool’ of between 14 (the same fineness as goat-produced cashmere) and 23 microns. This is then combed and spun into high-end yarn. Wool below 20 microns is suitable for insulating next-to-skin performance wear, while 18.5 microns is the optimum fibre diameter for a soft worsted wool suit.
Organica has a two-track approach to traceability. Brands (and their customers) are able to trace the specific farm or farmers that have supplied their merino wool. Or, they can work with Organica to develop a full traceability programme, which extends across every supply chain stage from sheep to spinner, garment maker to shop floor. A third-party company is responsible for auditing each element of the supply chain. ‘Every farmer has to prove a high compliance level with our demanding Organica protocol,’ says Uruguay-based Federico Paullier, managing director of Chargeurs Luxury Materials.
Chargeurs Luxury Materials’ wool warehouse in Trelew, Patagonia
Textile Exchange’s Preferred Fiber Materials Market Report estimates that organic wool makes up only one per cent of the 1.2 million tonnes of wool produced globally, but demand for traceable and ethical wool is gaining momentum. Presaging Organica’s protocols, the non-profit organisation set up the Responsible Wool Standard in 2016, auditing sheep farms according to land management standards and animal welfare. This includes guidelines for preventing environmental degeneration due to animal grazing, and restrictions on ‘mulesing’, a painful and controversial procedure, used in Australia, which sees strips of skin removed from the breeches of sheep, to prevent myiasis or ‘fly strike’.