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Beyond the Bale : March 2014
AWI's Key Account Manager of the Year Birgit Gahlen (left) showcasing The Wool Lab to prospect trade partners. FAST FACTS l AWI's Key Account Manager (KAMs) around the world, work on behalf of Australian woolgrowers, to build and maintain relationships with significant industry stakeholders and inspire them to work with Australian wool. l Birgit Gahlen from AWI's office in Biella, Italy has been selected as the 2013 KAM of the Year. l She has excelled at developing direct business relationships with global brands, retailers, textile manufacturers and fashion designers. Establishing and maintaining strong and healthy relationships with Woolmark licensees and other important textile partners is vital for AWI in its promotion of Australian wool to global markets. To this end, AWI has Key Account Managers (KAMs) in each of its offices around the world -- all strategically located in 15 countries across key markets in Asia, Europe and the Americas. Birgit Gahlen from AWI's office in Biella, Italy has been selected by AWI's senior management as 2013 KAM of the Year, based on an assessment of each KAM's performance and leadership qualities. Beyond the Bale caught up with Birgit to find out what she loves most about her job and Australian wool. How long have you worked in the wool industry? I have been working for The Woolmark Company for 20 years and have been a Key Account Manager for the past two years. I'm very proud and honoured to work for AWI, and Australian woolgrowers, and receive the KAM of Year award because the company has great staff worldwide, experts who know their business, and all of them, like me, love the fibre -- which makes it easy to transmit the fantastic and unique properties of Australian Merino wool. From the start of my career, I felt very lucky to be working with Merino wool; I'm so passionate about this natural fibre that I am constantly promoting its properties to even my friends, and my children love Merino wool too. What do you enjoy about your current role? I think that working for AWI is a unique opportunity; I don't know any other company in textiles and fashion where the work is so varied. We have the opportunity to work across so many sectors of the industry to promote Australian Merino wool, to educate and to stimulate the entire pipeline. We start with the spinners, weavers and knitters to get Merino wool into their collections, and then we show the fantastic yarns and fabrics to brands, retailers, designers and knitters. I love inspiring companies and people to work with Australian Merino wool -- introducing them to the fibre, assisting in sourcing what they need, educating them about the fibre's natural benefits, and developing their collections or line of work. I enjoy the versatility of Merino wool which I can recommend to use for babies, athletes, interior textiles, in fashion, in summer, in winter. Most of all I enjoy being part of such a fantastic global team which works with passion and dedication year round. Why are KAMs such an integral part of AWI? KAMs work very closely with the consumers of Merino wool, on behalf of Australian woolgrowers. We create and build relationships with our partners and we give them constant support and information on Australian Merino wool. We are also constantly building new relationships, even outside of the Merino wool community. A key part of our role is to resolve problems consumers or brands may have, and relay product know-how and sourcing facilities to stakeholders. We can find solutions and offer ideas and support and we act as direct representatives for the global authority of Merino wool. What major project are you currently working on? The most important project I am currently working on is The Wool Lab trend guide to wool. I have been involved with this tool from the beginning and I have seen it grow into a very valuable and respected resource for the fashion and textile industry. I participate in its preparation, development and presentation -- at one-on-one meetings and at the world's biggest trade shows. The Wool Lab has given us so many possibilities to inspire and educate, and it is a real sourcing tool for Australian Merino wool. In the past we had difficulties getting appointments with the main players in the industry, but The Wool Lab has allowed us to build strong relationships with the most important textile and fashion companies and brands. Better still, now the main players are contacting us to learn more about Australian wool. Promoting Australian wool 21 OFF-FARM March 2014 BEYOND THE BALE