Give fleece a chance
The words ‘locally sourced’ are now almost standard on the menu of any restaurant or pub worth its salt. Yet, although many of us care very deeply about the provenance of what we eat, we are more laissez faire about what we wear, sit on and sleep beneath.
Thanks to initiatives such as the Campaign For Wool’s Wool Week, which kicks off on Monday (October 10), this is beginning to change. For all of us, it will serve as a reminder that, although there’s nothing wrong with synthetics— in fact, they’re vital to modern life—there’s also a huge amount that is right about natural materials.
When the Campaign For Wool was launched by The Prince of Wales on a chilly morning in January 2010, at Wimpole hall in Cambridgeshire, the challenge of promoting the benefits of the material to retailers and consumers, still reeling from the financial crisis, seemed a steep hill to climb.
Last month, members of the farming, fashion and interiors industries from around the world converged on Dumfries house, for a conference hosted by The Prince, described as the ‘Davos of wool’. Among other things, delegates were invited to support and commit to a declaration to ‘protect the environment, uphold the best possible practices for sheep welfare, growing, trading, manufacturing and selling wool and wool-related products’.
It was clear to anyone at the conference that, so far, the campaign’s achievements are significant; as The Prince pointed out, ‘in general terms, wool prices are higher; sheep numbers are stable in most markets; designers are using more wool and there is a greater appreciation of wool’s many excellent qualities’. Central to the campaign’s success is the fact that consumers now understand the benefits of a fibre that is renewable, biodegradable, breathable, resilient, a natural insulator and fire retardant. It also looks and feels beautiful. A research laboratory has yet to create a material with all these properties.
In the past, those involved in the cut and thrust of high-street retailing, with an eye on the bottom line, might have believed that these qualities were of little interest to consumers buying clothes, furniture, textiles, bedding and carpets. But that’s no longer the case—now, it seems that a growing number recognises the benefits of wool, just as people recognise the attraction of organic food, a market which grew by 5% last year, to hit £1.95 billion.
Anyone who discovers the tactile joys of natural materials such as wool, linen and timber tends to develop a lifelong relationship with them; not only do they age beautifully, they also enhance our experience of everyday life. The fact that they can all be produced ethically and sustainably simply adds to the feel-good factor.