ISPO 2018

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Wool is the New Black

Wool is booming in the sports and outdoor market, with more brands than ever including wool in their ranges and using wool’s rich imagery to promote a natural aesthetic. IWTO reports from ISPO Munich.

Wool was the word in the halls of ISPO Munich, the four-day international outdoor sports trade fair that closed earlier this week at the Messe München exhibition grounds.

From the stands of ISPO award-winners Devold of Norway and Ortovox, to the Wool Showcase at the Sustainability Hub, wool stood out as way for brands to feature attractive apparel destined for more than sports activities.

“Natural material with a real-feel-good factor are one of the things that make this versatility possible,” according to ISPO organisers. “Hardly any labels out there will be entering into next season without natural fibres such as merino wool, cotton or cashmere.”

The number of sportswear brands using wool ten years ago was in the single digits. This year, it is estimated to be about 60.

"Wool is More Powerful"

Even brands which previously would have never looked twice at wool are adopting it into their offerings. The natural properties and characteristics of wool are part of the appeal.

For instance, Rab, an Alpine gear manufacturer, has developed a Merino+ base layer that blends superfine Merino wool and a synthetic fibre that combines polyester with volcanic sand and coconut shell fragments. The softness, breathability and odour control of the wool are promoted here. 

Similarly, Invista’s Cordura brand offers a Combat Wool yarn blending Merino with nylon. Here, the natural thermoregulating properties of wool are what’s highlighted, along with wool’s credentials as a “time-tested favourite”.

Under the slogan “Wool is more powerful” Knitters MITI SpA offer a product line combining wool and synthetic, asserting that “wool will no longer be afraid of abrasion or tension stress.” Wool’s breathability and “delicatezza a contatto con la pelle” are also highlighted. But it was rumoured that a 100% Merino yarn is now being offered by MITI, at the request of customers.

Wool Wins Awards 

Meanwhile, top brands such as Devold of Norway won an ISPO award for its new baselayer, the Tuvegga Sport Air, a reversible long-sleeved shirt (above, right).

This reversible baselayer is 100% Merino wool provides and all-in-one garment that adapts to different levels of intensity and changing outdoor temperatures.

Devold also used the occasion to promote the second phase of its “Sheep to Shop” traceability programme, featuring a collection made with 100% organic Merino wool from Argentina.

 The Swisswool Tec Stretch Zebru Jacket by Ortovox took ISPO Gold in the Snowsports segment, category Midlayer (above, left).

"The jacket really is an “all-you-need” midlayer. It’s light, fits well and feels great!” the jury commented.

“Technical stretch channels and Swisswool lining provide perfect comfort.”



“It’s shocking the what has become commonly known as ‘fleece’ on the high street isn’t fleece at all. It’s plastic – polyester.”

– Icebreaker Transparency Report 2017

Iconic New Zealand wool sports apparel brand Icebreaker used the ISPO fair to release its first Transparency Report.

The 120-page report gives readers an overview of all the components of Icebreaker’s business and supply chain policies, structure, and practices.

Significantly, the report makes no bones about underscoring one of the biggest ironies within the outdoor industry: its use of petrochemical fibres.

In a presentation to the European Outdoor Group, GM Europe Peter Ottervanger said, “We thought, plastic against the skin? Do you want that? Really?”  

The report came about in part as a response to the brand receiving a D-rating an ethical fashion survey. After the survey came out, Icebreaker determined that it had to tell its whole story.

“It was a wrong rating and misleading for consumers,” Peter Ottervanger said.

 “People should know what they are putting next to their skin.”

Eventually the brand challenged itself, asking, what if it were completely transparent?

Putting this into context, only 56% of the outdoor industry publish brand sustainability reports, Mr Ottervanger said. Of these, only 9% report a supplier’s list.

More Wool, More Transparency

Transparency featured in other wool brands, too.  At the Wool Showcase in Hall B, Australian Merino Exporters demoed an app that provides traceability for wool from farm to tops.

Mountain sport and outdoor brand Salewa’s Tirolwool Celliant fibre, which blends wool with a fibre that contains thermos-reactive minerals, sources its wool exclusively from farmers in the Tyrol – wool which would probably have otherwise gone to waste. Because the mineral part of the fibre is polyester-based which makes the product non-biodegradable, the brand is launching a new project “to get away from the polyester” a rep said.

The North Face brand highlighted a “climate beneficial” wool beanie: the wool is sourced from a farm that takes in more carbon that it puts out. Production methods allow the farmers of Bare Ranch to sequester around 4,000 metric tonnes of CO2.

This is a new line for The North Face, which sees a need for more ranchers to supply the wool. The beanie, which went on sale in September, was the brand’s top-selling beanie at the end of 2017.

Other participants of the Wool Showcase included American Wool, HD Wool, and Südwolle Group.

Woolmark Performance Challenge

In partnership with adidas, The Woolmark Company announced a new annual competition for students to develop innovations for the sports and performance market.

Open to students at 14 (and counting) universities in the U.S. and Europe, the Woolmark Performance Challenge, responds to the increased demand for natural alternatives and harnessing the science and performance benefits of Australian Merino wool.

The WPC invites forward-thinking solutions for sportswear, said Nigel Gosse, Woolmark Country Manager UK and Turkey.

The winner receives a €10,000 cash prize and three-month internship at adidas. The university also gets a €10,000 cash prize.

The first winner will be announced at ISPO 2019.

Said Senior Design Director Tillmann Studrucker. “This unique collaboration with The Woolmark Company gives young creative students the chance to help shape the future of sport, and sports culture.”

Image credits: Ski Between Winter and Yoga Above by Shaylin Wallace via WPC

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