Few companies can claim to carry as much recognition as The Woolmark Company. Headquartered in Sydney, the company has been the global authority on wool for decades thanks to its dedicated research, development and marketing of Australian merino wool, the world’s finest natural fibre. Through its extensive network of relationships spanning the international textile and fashion industries, The Woolmark Company highlights Australian wool’s position as the ultimate natural fibre and premier ingredient in luxury apparel.
Introduction to superfine merino wool
Australian merino wool is an entirely natural fibre grown year-round. Australian merino sheep are free-range animals that have a largely carefree life. From the high rainfall areas of the eastern seaboard to the drier pastoral areas of the west, merino sheep have become an integral part of the iconic Australian landscape.
Beyond its high-fashion credentials, superfine merino wool – that is wool with a diameter of 18.5 microns or less – is increasingly recognised for its health benefits. Biodegradable and renewable, superfine merino wool is not only soft to the skin and naturally elastic but offers thermal comfort and resistance to odour. It also improves skin health, with mounting research that challenges traditional misconceptions that the fibre is prickly or itchy.
Case study 01
Helly Hansen, Norway
Helly Hansen has been kitting out Nordic skiers, mountaineers and fishermen with first-rate cold-weather gear for almost 140 years. Headquartered in Oslo and considered an industry leader in cutting-edge clothing and equipment, the brand has been a pioneer of merino-wool sportswear. It produces gear for hiking, sailing and skiing and uses the wool most effectively in its superfine base layers. Designed to be worn in icy Scandinavian winters, these items of clothing feature a high component of superfine merino wool. Thanks to merino wool’s wicking qualities (the material draws moisture away from the skin and releases it into the air), wearers are kept dry and odourless. That means they stay warm in winter and keep cool in summer.
Case study 02
From its base in Taufkirchen near Munich, Ortovox has carved out a place as a global leader in mountaineering and avalanche-survival equipment. Alongside hi-tech avalanche transceivers, sturdy packable shovels and streamlined backpacks, it produces a sizeable collection of superfine merino-wool clothing: its underwear, beanies, trousers, vests and hoodies are sewn from wool that has been sourced from Tasmanian sheep. Other products, such as its fleece-lined hoodies, are made from a combination of synthetic materials and wool: the inner merino-wool lining keeps wearers warm while the synthetic shell makes the jacket waterproof.
Case study 03
When it comes to outerwear, Norwegian brand Devold has been leading the charge since 1853, making it one of the most established outdoor-wear brands in the world. Founded in the rugged coastal town of Langevåg, its peerless items are designed for adventurers, runners and skiers and have long been crafted from superfine merino wool.
Thanks to its thermo-regulating properties, the fibre actively draws moisture away from the skin, making it comfortable to wear by helping maintain the body’s optimum temperature without overheating or feeling clammy. Devold prides itself on the traceability of its garments, further adding to the appeal of the brand as it ships its wool directly to its factory in Lithuania, where a team of 300 creates long johns, T-shirts and base and outer layers ideal for all forms of sport.
The allergen myth
There is a common misconception that wool is an allergen; that if you pop on that chunky knitted turtleneck you might break out in an itchy red rash. This fear, it turns out, is entirely groundless when the garment is made from superfine merino wool.
A recent study conducted by a group of top medical professionals – including allergists, immunologists and dermatologists – scoured research papers from the past 100 years to assess whether allergen claims have any merit. They don’t. If garments do cause any itchiness it is not from an allergic reaction but due to coarse fibres protruding from it and rubbing against the skin. But this can occur with any material, no matter the fibre content. One fibre that is immune from this phenomenon, however, is superfine merino wool. This is because its fibres are so feather-light that they bend easily when they touch the skin, leaving it unaffected.
Reduction of eczema
Not only does superfine merino wool not cause itchiness, it actually alleviates irritation for those with more sensitive skin. Recent studies conducted by The Woolmark Company reveal that people suffering from eczema experience significant reductions in their symptoms when they swap their cotton garments for superfine merino wool.
The reason stems from the wool’s remarkable ability to absorb and release moisture vapour: it can absorb twice as much as cotton and 30 times as much as polyester. This attribute helps superfine merino garments maintain a more stable micro-climate between the fabric and the skin, further adding to the benefits of nature’s miracle fibre.
Thanks to its wide-ranging properties, merino wool has been embraced by a host of industries. Its use in winter sports and for high fashion is well documented. But what you might not know is that the fibre’s many attributes make it the fabric of choice for everyone year-round, from firefighters to newborns. Here are some of its most popular – and diverse – uses.
Merino wool’s thermo-regulation ability helps keep little ones warm but also comfortably cool when it’s hot.
Wool offers warmth without weight, keeping soldiers agile and cool in combat and then warm once they stop.
03 Cross-country skier
Wool’s thermo-regulating function means that skiers will avoid the harmful post-exercise chill effect.
Unlike synthetics, wool is naturally flame resistant and won’t melt.
A naturally elastic fibre, merino wool works in harmony with your body and then returns to its original shape after being worn.