Suffer for Fashion: Have you herd about wool?

November 4, 2010

As temperatures plunge and another frigid winter grasps the Hilltop with its icy claw, instead of a cotton, polyester, or synthetic sweater, consider opting for a wool one. Grandma’s often-neglected hand-knitted gifts are becoming increasingly more visible in fashion magazines and on the runway thanks to the public’s rekindled desire to wear wool—both for the warmth and for the world.

Long thought to be an unrefined and low-tech source of clothing, wool has reemerged as a popular fabric because of some high-profile endorsements touting the textile as ecologically responsible and fashion-forward. Wool is biodegradable over time and, unlike synthetic fabrics, causes no damage to the environment due to chemicals released during decomposition. While cotton requires mass amounts of pesticides for a fruitful harvest, natural wool production is possible—and in fact thrives—without them. Wool holds its shape better than synthetics and cotton. It’s warmer in winter but breathes during the summer. New techniques can make wool ultra-soft (even softer than Merino) and some high-quality wool can even be machine-washed and ironed, making maintenance as easy as cotton. Plus wool doesn’t rip over time.

The modern movement for increased production and use of all-natural wool gained momentum from the most royal of places. His Highness Prince Charles, a long-time proponent of environmental causes, launched the Campaign For Wool in January of 2010. He hopes to spur increased wool sales and production over the next five years by educating the public about the sustainability of wool and encouraging its new fashionable role.

The Campaign For Wool got its first boost of publicity thanks to a series events staged in London. A flock of sheep with yellow-dyed coats were placed to graze in London’s famous Savile Row in West End, high-end tailors like Anderson & Sheppard and Gieves & Hawkes launched wool-suit promotions, and global fashion retailers like Pringle, Prada, Burberry, and Selfridges prominently displayed wool garments in their fall style advertisements and offerings.

Currently, the Campaign For Wool has hundreds of retail partners, including Harvey Nichols, Jaeger, Marks & Spencer, and Topshop. “Wool Week,” as it’s been dubbed, also includes knitting lessons and innovative wool window displays to catch the attention of busy Londoners and draw public support.

You don’t have to live across the pond to support the natural wool movement. Loudoun County, just outside of D.C., is home to WeatherLea Farm, one of many farms in Northern Virginia that sell artisanal wool sweaters, socks, and hats.  Last spring, WeatherLea, a member of the Loudoun Valley Sheep Producers Association, periodically held spinning and weaving demonstrations. Additionally, Carodan Farm produces all-natural wool garments out of Chincoteague Island, Virginia and takes orders online to get you through the winter.

Make sure you act now before you’re just another person hopping on the wool bandwagon. Because let’s face it, nobody likes to be a sheep when it comes to fashion.

Tell Keenan about your new technique to make things ultra-soft at ktimko@georgetownvoice.com


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Not to be an a-hole, but it’s a little late to have missed the “wool bandwagon.” I’m pretty sure the word is out on wool. What was it, about the third fiber humans began to use for clothing? This article should be post-dated for about 2,000 BC.

Damn it, I was just an a-hole.