wool_week_on_saville_row This week, the world’s most famous and prestigious tailoring location was closed to traffic as dozens of sheep grazed in a specially-laid pasture.
Watched over by two farmers, wearing bespoke suits made from fine British cloth, the flock wandered around Savile Row in London’s West End.
The stunt marked the start of Wool Week, which is part of the Campaign For Wool, whose patron is the Prince of Wales. Visitors attended open-house events and tours of the most famous tailoring houses to learn how wool is used by British mills and inspires the world-class bespoke tailors of Savile Row.
They also heard more about the qualities of wool as a sustainable fibre.
Some of the UK’s top designers, retailers and wool manufacturers have combined this season as part of Wool Week, which features a series of events and product launches to celebrate the diversity of wool in fashion, furnishings and the home.
Wool Week is being organised by The Campaign For Wool, a coalition of industry groups to educate consumers about the benefits of wool and to highlight its premium quality.
The campaign was initiated by Prince Charles, a strong supporter of Britain’s upland hill farmers.
He was concerned about the low prices UK sheep farmers were getting for their fleeces, which are auctioned in Bradford by the British Wool Marketing Board. Between 1997 and 2009, the average price fell from 97p a kilo to 68p, although there has been some recovery more recently.
The five-year Campaign For Wool also throws the spotlight on the continuing activity of UK wool processors and manufacturers, which many people believe are an extinct breed.
Bulmer & Lumb, at Buttershaw, remains the only vertical wool textile mill in the UK, where raw material goes in at one end and cloth comes out of the other on the same site, although its spinning operation is in Poland these days.
The company, which was the subject of a management buy-out ten years ago, has seen increased activity this year after a quiet 2009. Veteran industry figure Bill Waterhouse, managing director, who entered the wool trade in 1962, said quality British fabric remains in demand in long-established markets such as Japan, as well as Italy and the Middle East.
The likes of China and India offered potential on a huge scale as consumers there grew wealthier.
Bulmer & Lumb, which turns over around £19m a year, acquired Huddersfield fine worsted producer Taylor & Lodge five years ago, a prestige name at the top end of the market.
The company, which exports about half of its production, employs 230 staff in Bradford, 30 in Huddersfield and 200 at its Polish spinning plant. It has continued to invest on average £500,000 a year in equipment up to 2009, when demand slackened. Mr Waterhouse said: “UK textiles remain among the best in the world and our brands are renowned. So long as the exchange rate remains favourable, as it is now, we can compete in most markets.”
“The Campaign For Wool brings together producers, leading fashion houses and retailers in an effort to raise the profile of a fabric that is natural, sustainable and meets all the environmental and quality requirements of today’s consumer.”
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