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Beyond the Bale : June 2014
Being in the tailoring business for nearly 130 years is bound to build an appreciation for the importance of wool. But for British company and long-term Woolmark licensee Berwin & Berwin, a recent visit to Australia to see how Merino wool is grown has enhanced that appreciation even further. Managing director Simon Berwin heads the fourth- generation family business based in Yorkshire, England, a good 17,000km away from the source of the raw materials used in much of the 15,000 suits the company produces each week. Berwin & Berwin works with around 95 per cent Merino wool content in the garments they create for retail clients including Ted Baker and T.M. Lewin, UK high street chain Next and British department stores John Lewis and House of Fraser. Working with Next, the company also dressed British male athletes and officials for the London Olympic Games in 2012. 19 OFF-FARM June 2014 BEYOND THE BALE FAST FACTS l Leading UK tailoring business Berwin & Berwin has been a Woolmark licensee since 1965. l Managing director Simon Berwin recently paid a visit to 'Arthursleigh' near Goulburn, NSW to see for himself how Australian Merino wool is grown. l The trip highlighted the natural and ethical qualities of the Merino wool used by the company. Woolmark licensee: Berwin & Berwin As a Woolmark licensee since 1965, Mr Berwin determined the time was well overdue for the company to experience first-hand the skill and craftsmanship that sees Merino wool move from the sheep's back to the production floor. "For many years we've dealt with AWI and The Woolmark Company and we've heard about what happens in Australia so to actually be here and see the sheep shearing, where the whole process begins, is actually very humbling -- as well as fascinating, the fact that one fleece will end up making four suits," Mr Berwin said. The visit is timely given the company's exceptional growth in recent years as it pursues a broader, more international focus -- since 1992, the company's output has grown tenfold. During his time in Australia, Mr Berwin, along with Irish designer Paul Costelloe whose menswear label is produced in partnership with Berwin & Berwin, visited 'Arthursleigh', a 7900 ha property at Marulan near Goulburn. The experience helped cement Merino wool's status as the fibre of choice for the company's suiting. "It's great to see it so clean and, ethically, it passes all the tests," Mr Berwin said while inspecting the farm. "The thing about wool is the fact that it's a real, living product. It fits around your body, it moves, it reacts." The company's long heritage has seen it survive the rise of polyester and viscose and withstand price pressures coming from both the wholesale and retail fronts, but ultimately Merino wool itself is one of the biggest commercial advantages for their product: the feeling of quality and uniqueness of the fibre is something that sets a Berwin & Berwin garment apart from inferior budget products. "It's really about educating people about wool and all of its benefits," Mr Berwin says. "There's a new generation that needs to be aware that a suit should be worn because otherwise you're buying a product that gives you no pleasure and no lifetime." Innovation and the rise of menswear is set to see Merino wool's presence continue to grow in the global fashion industry. Indeed, with Berwin & Berwin's own international growth strategy reaping big returns, Simon Berwin is unlikely to lose sight of just how vital the raw fibre is to his company's success. "It's been really exciting to be here in Australia at the beginning of the process," he said. More information: www.berwinberwin.co.uk Managing director Simon Berwin of UK tailoring company and Woolmark licensee Berwin & Berwin viewing the Aussie way of life on his recent visit to an Australian Merino wool-growing property.