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Beyond the Bale : June 2017
It is a busy time for AWI in Europe and North America. Influencing the demand for wool in these Northern hemisphere retail markets is sometimes a flurry of divergent and winding paths and projects. Sometimes it feels like trying to ride a whirlwind, but I want to give you a quick round up of a few of the things we have been doing lately. In the press, we saw the announcement of the ‘new-and-improved’ International Woolmark Prize (see page 20) which always excites the trade and the media. This year sees the scale and impact of the competition increase and the addition of an Innovation Award. This seemed to certainly interest the journalists I was talking to this week. Regional competitions get under way next month driving towards the grand final next year. This is a global campaign that just keeps getting bigger and whose influence keeps growing. In other areas, AWI’s subsidiary, The Woolmark Company, was a partner for the 32nd International Festival of Fashion and Photography at Hyères in southern France. This prestigious event attracts the best of the Paris and Europe fashion crowd and involves household names like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior and Chloé. The Woolmark Company assisted ten emerging designers to create a series of looks in wool which were showcased in a runway show in front of the best and brightest of the fashion world and media, which helps support Australian wool’s positioning at the pinnacle of the fashion industry. At another point of global interest, we helped support the Campaign for Wool’s activities in Florence, Italy, where HRH The Prince of Wales visited a wool showcase AWI’s General Manager for the Western Hemisphere, Stuart Ford, who is based in our Paris office, recaps some recent projects undertaken by AWI in the region to increase the demand for Australian wool. BUILDING DEMAND FOR AUSTRALIAN WOOL demonstrating the versatility and cutting edge of wool in Italian design (see page 16). HRH was shown AWI’s The Wool Lab demonstrating the full extent of wool fabrics, treatments and options available, which the media dutifully reported to further enhance the reputation and influence of wool in these key retail markets. In London, in another sphere, we undertook a series of meetings with key sports brands trying to arrange collaborations to promote wool to their active and lifestyle oriented audiences. At the same time, in the US, wool was front and centre at the US Open Snowboarding Championships (see page 10) where a leading brand demonstrated the versatility and functionality of wool snowboard apparel to the excited millennial crowd. New markets, new locations, new horizons and challenges every day. April saw the launch in-store of the Tommy Hilfiger-Rafael Nadal suiting collection, crafted in wool and wool blends (see page 4). This promotion includes massive billboards in key airports, malls and other high profile locations bearing Nadal, Tommy Hilfiger and the Woolmark logo to promote the performance of wool in modern-day suiting. We also saw a global campaign with Max Mara with wool promoted across their flagship stores. These campaigns coupled with leading global brands are extremely impactful and help influence consumers to search out wool options for their wardrobes. We are now also starting to head into the trade show season with a very brief summer respite before the various Fashion Weeks get under way. It is the sheer diversity of the projects we do, the volume of engagements we generate and the global nature of the collaborations in which we get involved that keeps wool at the front end of the demand curve. We also must keep an eye on markets that hold more opportunities. We are currently researching how we can better serve and optimise the German and Scandinavian markets for example. This area sees access to a catchment of around 125 million consumers which equates to about half the size of the US market and an opportunity we need to maximise. We also have to watch macro-economic and political trends such as the French elections and Brexit, retail closure rates in the US not seen since 2008 but apparel sales climbing as sales move online, smaller emergent brands chipping away at old established brands, the possibilities of the athleisure sector and so on... All these factors and more have to be included in our planning as markets are ever changing and evolving. Our staff try to reach all – ranging from the traditional heritage brands, the designers of the future, the innovative sports brands and even through to collaborations with emerging tech apparel system creators. We are keeping busy up here trying to find more, innovative and exciting ways to promote wool to the retail brands and consumers that create demand and hopefully maximise the yield to Australian woolgrowers. The markets are certainly volatile at the moment but we will continue to do our best to make sure that wool remains the fibre of choice for all seasons and all reasons. Stuart Ford, AWI General Manager – Western Hemisphere MARKET INTELLIGENCE 59