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working with wool

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We're big fans of wool, and for good reason.

A renewable resource, wool's ability to keep you dry, warm and comfortable across a wide range of environments makes it one of the most versatile materials around. We work hard to source our wool responsibly, but it's not always a simple process.

As a natural fiber, the production of wool has a number of unique challenges. These include:

animal health

  • Providing appropriate comfort, shelter and freedom from distress and illness. Of particular note is the practice of mulesing, in which a layer of skin around the animal's rear end is removed to prevent disease. Unpleasant though it may be, there are two sides to this practice, which is done in order to ensure the long-term health of the animals. We work with suppliers whose experience and desire for healthy productive sheep motivates them to make the best decisions for their flocks. Wherever possible, we use wool from mulesing-free sheep.

land management

  • Systematically controlling chemical use, including pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.

  • Protecting the soil, surrounding watershed, biodiversity and wildlife.

fabric processing

  • Using treatments, typically chlorine-based, to add shrink resistance.

  • Monitoring dye use.

  • Generating and treating wastewater.

traceability

  • Ensuring that the wool we buy comes from trustworthy sources that are raising their sheep and managing the land at the standards we require.

 
where we stand

Where possible, we use a system of traceability for the wool we buy. Where this is not possible, we are working to implement a network that will allow us to track the source of this wool and ensure it meets our standards. We are continually striving to improve all our fabric and manufacturing sources, and are dedicated to the idea of traceability in our materials, humane treatment of animal fiber sources, and decreased environmental impact in our manufacturing processes.

Current styles using Zque certified wool:

  • Merino 3 Hoody

what we're doing
When grown and processed responsibly, wool represents a natural, renewable fiber with superior performance and moisture management characteristics. We strive to work with wool suppliers who utilize sustainable farming and ranching techniques.

land & animal health

The Merino for our baselayer and insulation products is sourced through the Zque program in New Zealand. The Zque program provides a high standard of verification, helping ensure that animal health and welfare, environmental, economic, and social values are positively addressed by the suppliers who participate. The program is based on the best management practices available, and works to continually refine and improve performance, requiring accredited growers to meet the standards outlined in the Zque manual and involving an independent (third party) audit process.

traceability

Unfortunately, at this time we are unable to fully trace the source of our wool for our knit sweaters beyond the vendor level. This is something we are exploring, and working to improve so that we can offer more transparency as to where the wool for these products originates.

processing
All our cut-and-sew (non-sweater) wool is processed using a closed-loop, anti-shrink chlorine process to de-scale the fibers. This process delivers a final product with reduced shrinkage, improved durability and long term wear and easy care. We decided to use this process not because we want to use chlorine, but because doing so results in a more durable, softer product. The closed-loop process ensures that the chemicals are managed properly and reused, thereby preventing them from being released into the environment. We are continuing to evaluate other options for treating our wool, but at the moment none of them produce an end product that is free from serious shortcomings with regards to shrinkage and pilling.

moving forward

We are committed to exploring ways to expand the positive aspects of our use of wool. From increasing the traceability of all the wool we purchase, to finding and developing relationships with sources for sustainably produced wool (which is currently not available with the fine hand and high quality we demand for our fabrics), to ensuring the use of closed loop systems that reuse processed wastewater, to developing alternatives to chlorine in anti-shrink treatments, to continuing to emphasize healthy and humane animal husbandry practices. Our goal is always to provide the highest quality product that does the least harm.

there's always more to learn:

The Zque program:
www.zque.co.nz

Animal Welfare Institute:
www.awionline.org/farm/standards.htm

tell us what you think:
greymatters@nau.com

 

 

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Our goal is to use design to redefine business so that it can be a force for change. We do this by making sustainability and philanthropy inherent in everything we do; by blending the tailored and the technical to craft urban and outdoor performance apparel; by pioneering premium, eco-friendly fabrics; and crafting clean, intuitive silhouettes that are built to move.
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