Style trends, T Talk, Yarn
The Woolmark Company,
Birgit Gahlen, The Woolmark Company’s R&D Manager, Europe is responsible for the company’s education and extension programs across Europe and she will lead us to discover the original performance and eco fibre.

There are partnerships that don’t know the passing of time, strengthened by similar visions and passions, and Tollegno’s relationship with The Woolmark Company is like this. The Woolmark Company is the global authority on Merino wool that invests in research, development, and marketing throughout the worldwide supply chain of wool on behalf of Australia’s 60,000 Merino sheep breeders. What binds us for over 20 years is the love for wool that brought us to design common paths and to develop projects for training (The Wool Lab) and fashion (“Wool on the Go Tailored Knit” capsule collection born by the collaboration among The Woolmark Company, Shima Seiki, and Tollegno 1900).

Long-lasting, like the wool fibre itself, our partnership has many elements. Birgit Gahlen knows this very well and she never loses the thread when it comes to talking about this amazing fibre.

You say wool in your mind goes to a warm sweater to face the winter. This yarn in reality has many other different uses: what makes it so exceptional?

Merino wool is unique thanks to its multiple properties, for the benefits it generates in contact with the skin, and for its complex structure that cannot be imitated. Man-made fibres have tried to replicate wool’s benefits but without success. Wool encapsulates different souls, being at the same time a natural and technical fibre, wrapping and performing. Its pluses are numerous: biodegradable, renewable, thermoregulatory, keeping you warm in winter and fresh in summer, hydro-repellent,  doesn’t smell, protects from UV rays, is fire resistant and it can be mixed with all other fibres.

A single yarn that encloses a thousand virtues…

Wool has so many valuable and quality characteristics, it would take hours to list them all! For example, what makes it exceptional is the ease in which you can take care of it and its durability over time. Wool garments don’t need to be washed as much as those made with other fibres. Its versatility enables it to be applicable in most disparate sectors, such as fashion and automotive.

Space for research then: in which direction are you going?

We are in constant movement and there are many ideas to make the most of wool qualities, examining always each step, from process to product. For example, we are studying the use of wool for shoes, for the commute wear and workwear and at the same time, we are putting the emphasis on wool’s sustainability through blends, natural dyeing and innovations with digital printing. We are continuously seeking new ideas.

Another successful binomial is wool and training: what is the bond between the two and why is it important?

In this time, raw material training is more and more important. For future designers, developing a new collection requires complex work: they have to create garments, taking into consideration the circular economy – two or three cycles, hybrid and multifunctional garments – it is essential that they fully know the yarn characteristics. It is not by chance that in the last three to four years, fashion schools have implemented their studies with workshops and lessons on raw material, including in the school program the whole fibre process “from farm to finish garment”. The Woolmark Company has been working with these institutes for five years, offering courses and contests for secondary schools with the project called “Wool4School” and “Wool Performance Challenge” for the universities. These contests are a spark for the students to think “out of the box”. Special attention is also given to emerging designers with the “International Woolmark Prize”.

Digitization stood still?

Of course not! To assist the whole supply chain that includes students and teachers we developed an e-learning platform www.woolmarklearningcentre.com. The platform offers specifics subjects and webinars free of charge, basic training courses with an introduction to the wool and knitting world, and specialized, technical and advanced scientific courses dedicated to industry experts. We have also begun to digitize our sourcing support with regional sourcing guides now available on our website and an exciting development with The Wool Lab is underway.

Wool is also an inspirational element as confirmed by the partnership among The Woolmark Company, Shima Seiki and Tollegno 1900 united in a “research” project. 

The Woolmark Company always researches innovation, new ideas, technologies and yarns to present to brands and retailers. In the last Pitti Filati edition, during which our company presented “The Wool Lab Vision” at our stand, we met the Creative Director of Shima Seiki, leader in the production of knitting machines, Vittorio Branchizio. Vittorio was immediately enthusiastic and proposed us a capsule collection “Wool on the go Tailored Knit”. We loved the idea right away because it fits perfectly with the new “commute wear” trend that The Woolmark Company is promoting. In this area we are developing classical garments such as suits and overcoats with a new urban style interpretation, thanks to the comfort given by the knitting.

How did you select the three yarn leader companies?

For this project we selected three excellences of the Biella district, spinners that are Woolmark licensees and each one with its own specialty. The three outfits that compose the capsule have different characteristics. The first one needed a super technical Merino yarn, therefore Tollegno 1900 with Harmony 4.0 was the right one; the second one needed ultrafine Merino wool yarns therefore we selected Loro Piana; the third one needed a fine Merino wool such as Zegna Baruffa Lane Borgosesia.

An example of how creativity could be the keystone in successfully uniting same sector interlocutors, bypassing the competitive limit. New project in progress with this aim?

We are starting a new project with Dhouse, Innovation Hub and The Woolmark Company. We thought to develop Merino wool high technology innovations to introduce at Pitti Filati. A project in which we still count on your collaboration for! We cannot say more…

Appointment at the next interview




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