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Beyond the Bale : September 2011
Woolgrowers Steve and Kerry Swain from Genanegie Merino Stud, Peak Hill, NSW, took time out on a recent trip to Italy to visit the famous textile manufacturing town of Biella. "As woolgrowers, it was really interesting to visit Biella and see where so much of Australia's Merino wool gets made into products," Steve commented. They were shown around the family- owned Italian textile manufacturer Botto Giuseppe by Fabio Garzena from AWI's Biella office. "Botto Giuseppe buys wool top, and then spins and weaves it into fabric. They use a range of micron between 16 and 20, and it was pleasing to see quality wools in the higher micron range, as well as their more usual finer microns, being manufactured into a range of superior woollen products," Steve said. "The company is definitely a case of tradition, meshing with new technology. The mill was established over 100 years ago and originally produced carded fabrics. Today, the mill uses air-operated looms as well as the more traditional mechanical looms. "Dying and felting are carried out in different sections of the works as is special treatments of the fabrics. The use of mechanical and chemical treatments to give the fabrics certain qualities was particularly interesting. There were woollen fabrics that looked and felt like lightweight cottons (seersucker), and some that were treated to look and feel like 'peach skin' silk. "The mill operated an extensive R&D department which we were told, together with AWI, was investigating further treatments regarding machine washability and the use of optic enhancers to improve colours in the final product. "We were particularly impressed with the strict quality control. There were workers examining in detail every length of cloth being produced to ensure that it was of the highest standard. These fabrics were then being delivered to the great design houses of the world. "Over the past decade, Biella has been affected by competition from China, where mills have been built that almost dwarf the mills of Italy. It appears that the market is still strong however, as this mill continued to operate 24 hours a day. Indeed, 'compulsory' visits with Kerry to designer retail outlets throughout Italy (Milan, Florence, Sorrento, Rome) showed quality woollen products continue to be a cornerstone of the fabrics utilised for high fashion." The Swains also visited the AWI office in Biella and heard from AWI staff about the work being done to drive demand for Australian wool in different markets. "It was interesting to see how they are working along the supply pipeline with designers, the wool mills, brands and retailers. I was impressed by the depth of talent of the staff and their enthusiasm for promoting Australian wool to the world," commented Kerry. FAST FACTS lOn a recent visit to Biella, Italy, woolgrowers Steve and Kerry Swain from Peak Hill, NSW, were shown around one of the mills by AWI. lThey were impressed how the Italians combined tradition with innovation to produce quality woollen fabrics. l Although Biella has been affected by competition from China over the past decade, the Italians seemed upbeat and optimistic about the future. THE WOOL IS 'BELLA' IN BIELLA Woolgrower Steve Swain from Peak Hill, NSW, visiting a mill in the famous textile manufacturing town of Biella, Italy. 7 OFF-FARM September 2011 BEYOND THE BALE campaign was initially launched in the UK, Italy, Germany, Japan, France, Australia and the USA; the campaign had been seen by over 40 million people by the end of 2010/11. "It is pleasing to see the No Finer Feeling campaign has the capacity to inspire the great masters of fashion to feature Merino wool," Stuart added. More information: www.merino.com It's a new kind of wool that is eco-sustainable, soft beyond compare and has highly organoleptic properties. Thanks to its fineness and extremely high quality of the fiber as developed by Australian producers, it has become the material par excellence for the luxury ready- to-wear industry. This is definitely Giorgio Armani's conviction as he has known how to develop the expressive qualities of wool like no other designer. Today he is further making the most of wool's characteristics by constantly carrying out research into materials. In fact, the processes carried out at the beginning of the production phase of this wool have allowed for this amazing level of progress. Like for Grand Crus wines, it's the "terroir" that has the highest level of impact on wool. Only a place as pristine and uncontaminated as Australia could have offered a high level standard like this. After the shearing process, the wool is then worked in Italy. In this way, two areas of excellence work together to create a truly unique product, and the results achieved would have been impossible to imagine even a short while ago. VOGUE EDITORIAL OPINION: WOOL'S LUXURIOUS TOUCH The softest and most precious of wool fibers transformed into high- impact creations by the Italian master of style Giorgio Armani. The potential of a material that is ancient and avant-garde. The Milan- based Maison uses its unmistakable aesthetic to make the most of it.