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Beyond the Bale : September November 2009
AWI's 2010-11 Merino TouchTM collection super-soft Merino wool knitted fabrics are designed to provide affordable garments with next-to-skin softness and a luxurious feel. The collection uses yarns made from fine Merino wool, which has been specially treated to further enhance its natural softness, making it feel two to three microns finer. AWI's general manager of key accounts and innovation Jimmy Jackson says the collection, which feels like cashmere and looks like silk, has been very well received by buyers. "Cashmere has been popular in recent years, but every day 100-per-cent- cashmere sweaters are being returned with holes in them, so consumers are starting to question how wearable the fibre is. "Wool offers superior wearability, and it can also be blended with cashmere to improve the performance of an otherwise delicate cashmere product. "A slowing economy has led to a redefining of the concept of luxury for consumers. When consumers today are looking for luxury they are seeking 'quiet' luxury -- quality over ostentatious display -- and AWI is responding to this trend." With the recession hitting sales across the globe, wool is proving a more cost- effective fibre than cashmere for retailers too. Woollen garments do not present the same financial risk as cashmere. "Retailers don't want to be sitting on a very large amount of expensive stock not moving off their racks, so wool offers the same quality at a much better price and this has been working in our favour," Jimmy says. The treatment that creates the Merino TouchTM collection is done just prior to yarn spinning and is known as the Mercerised Merino process. As well as providing a comfortable, next-to-skin softness and lustre, the process also allows garments made from the fabric to be machine washable. Another innovation particularly popular with retailers and brands is AWI's Merino Casual collection, AWI's response to the threat to wool's market share posed by cotton. Merino Casual is a collection of distinctive knitted and woven garments and fabrics designed to be versatile and casual. Jimmy Jackson says the apparel industry has experienced a global trend towards 'casualisation' over the past two decades. "Busy lifestyles and changing workplace fashions have reduced the need for consumers to have multiple wardrobes -- and there is also an increasing desire for individualism. "Wool traditionally has been used in more formal, more classical products, but the number of people wearing such apparel is diminishing. Just stand on any high street in September -- November 2009 BEYOND THE BALE 5 SELLING MORE WOOL MERINO CASUAL COLLECTION l Knitwear and wovens l Casual comfort l Unique textures and finishes l Machine wash options MERINO TOUCHTM COLLECTION l Versatile knitwear l Next-to-skin softness l Affordable luxury l Machine washable the world and observe the trend. Irrespective of gender, age and nationality, just about everybody is in casual clothes, whether it be smart casual or 'distressed' casual. To enable wool to regain some of its market share from cotton, AWI has worked closely with the manufacturing industry to develop new processes, which create a range of casual effects on wool. "This was a tough challenge; in comparison to cotton, wool is a delicate fibre, so you cannot just start stone washing it, sandblasting it or throwing buckets of bleach at it," Jimmy says. However, AWI has been successful and has used a range of dying and finishing techniques to create a collection of Merino wool knitted and woven garments with distinguishing textures and finishes. "The initial response to the Merino Casual collection has been great -- much better than we could have hoped for," Jimmy says. "Now our technical teams in Asia are working to transfer the technology to the suppliers of some of these major retailers and brands, following this very positive response." More information: www.wool.com/market Wool shapes up to its competitors AWI's new Merino TouchTM and Merino Casual (pictured) collections, launched at SpinExpo, aim to claw back market share from wool's two main competitors -- cashmere and cotton.
June August 2009