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Beyond the Bale : June 2017
During February, a group of nine representatives from Japanese retailers Aoyama, Aoki, Haruyama, Konaka and Futata received a whole-of-pipeline education about the Australian wool industry and the virtues of the fibre. The trip included a visit, guided by AWI Corporate Communications Manager Marius Cuming, to Doug Paterson's 'Woodlands' property at Nulla Vale, 100km north of Melbourne, and a briefing at the AWI office in Sydney. The Japanese delegation's trip also included visits to AWTA, auction rooms and showfloor, the National Wool Museum and retail outlets. This annual education program has been led by the All Japan SiroSet Processors Cooperative Association for the past 16 years. The SiroSet process, which was developed by CSIRO in the late 1950s and is still widely used in the industry, enables the permanent creasing and pleating of wool fabrics -- see box to the right. SiroSet is an example of how R&D investment in the wool industry is still delivering value to Australian woolgrowers. Approximately four million pairs of men's pure wool trousers are processed using the SiroSet treatment each year for the Japanese market -- a reflection not only of the popularity for machine washable suits in Japanese retail outlets but also of the ongoing successful education of Japanese retail staff. The delegates on this trip represent retailers who between them sell more than five million men's suits in Japan annually, representing 50 per cent of Japan's suit market. Secretary General & Technology Manager of the All Japan SiroSet Processors Cooperative Association, Mr Takayuki Tanaka, said it was critical that the retailers experience first- hand where Australian wool comes from and how it ends up in the product they value and promote in Japan. "The participants had a first experience to watch and learn sheep farming, sheep breeding, shearing, wool testing by AWTA etc so they can talk with confidence about the benefits of wool to their customers and thereby improve their sales performance," he said. "In Japan, SiroSet is an indispensable technology for machine washable suits, shower clean suits, and shape retention suits. The SiroSet treatment is used mainly in the menswear market, but it is also used for school uniform skirts, for women's trousers and skirts for students in job-hunting and new employees these days." Marius Cuming said AWI is very committed to promoting Australian wool as the best and finest fibre in the world. "While brochures and videos can be great marketing tools, there is nothing better than for someone to feel the wool themselves and see the passion and skill that goes into growing it," he said. "Tours to Australia are unbelievably effective -- it is not just the few that come out that benefit, they go back and tell their teams about their experience with wool." MORE INFORMATION www.si-ro-set.jp The requirement for a process of permanent pleating wool fabrics arose in the 1950s when wool was under considerable pressure from synthetics, particularly polyester, that could be heat-set to give permanent creases and pleats. Accepting the challenge, Arthur Farnworth and his colleagues of CSIRO at Geelong developed a chemical process, named SiroSet, that changed the structure of the wool fibres. The process involved the spray application of a limited quantity of dilute ammonium thioglycollate at pH 7.0 immediately before steam heating. It set rapidly and resulted in permanent creasing and pleating of wool fabrics, allowing woollen clothing to hold its shape, even after washing. The SiroSet process was welcomed by the international wool industry and rapidly adopted worldwide, with it is still being used Representatives from five of Japan's largest menswear retailers have recently visited Australia to see first-hand where quality wool garments and products begin their life. The development of the SiroSet process in 1957 has helped enable woollen fabrics to remain internationally competitive with synthetic fabrics for the past 60 years. JAPANESE SET ON AUSSIE WOOL SIROSET PERMANENT PLEATING 26 OFF FARM