AROUND THE FARMS
New connections are being made that link fabric and fashion back to specific and often historic farms
At Miena at Lemont, Marie Boadle continues a 60-year tradition of farming 50,000 sheep with her father. Until recently, she says, most wool growers would sell most of their clip at auction through Elders in Melbourne. But now, with the Italians ensuring they can get enough premium wool for suiting fabrics to keep their mills going, better prices are being offered through the Vitale Barberis Canonico Wool Excellence Club, of which they are one of about 22 farm members. Boadle says they have a contract until 2019 to sell their wool through New England Wool to Italian fabric manufacturer Vitale Barberis Canonico, at between 4 and 10 per cent more than market valuation.
“A lot of people are trying to think of different ways of marketing their product,” she says. “We have the traditional Saxon superfine wool that’s quite rare. Italians need that wool to make their beautiful cloth.”
Sixth-generation Derwent Valley farmer Charles Downie is also targeting the European sportswear market with the superfine wool operation at Glenelg Estate near Gretna. Running 16,500 merinos producing 60,000kg of wool a year (about 350 bales), they’re hoping to supply Norwegian company Devold, one of the world’s oldest outdoor brands.
Australian Wool Network’s recent expansion, from brokering to manufacturing and retail, is focusing on “pulling the wool through the pipeline”. They’ve established regional growing groups, such as the one on Kangaroo Island, which uses swing tags with QR codes linked to videos that tell the story of the wool’s provenance direct to the customer.
Tom and Mandy Clarke from Quorn Hall Pastoral at Campbell Town have a long history of growing wool. Last year they were approached by an on-farm wool agent to sell their wool direct to the Australian Wool Network for its Merino Snug luxury knitwear range.
“We were happy to run with it to see where our product ended up,” Tom says.
Quorn Hall sent between 10 and 20 bales (an average bale is 170kg) of fine merino to AWN at a premium price of 100c to 150c a kilo. “If it ends up at 100 bales at 150c above the market valuation, that’s worth doing,” Tom says.