Our greatest challenge is finding partners to do the finishing work at the volume we require
Nick Brayton, President, Woolrich shares his ideas on the current scenario, changing trends, and future prospects of the wool industry with Fibre2Fashion correspondent Ilin Mathew.
Nick Brayton is a seventh generation descendant of Woolrich founder John Rich, who began producing woolens in the United States in 1830. Since taking over as company president in the spring of 2012, Brayton has been integral in refocusing the company's efforts to increase its domestic product assortment.
Today, the brand sells a mix of products sourced domestically and throughout the world. Its products include a range of goods from outdoor clothing to outdoor furniture. Still, headquartered in the little village of Woolrich, the company has successfully integrated tradition with modernization in its products.
Woolrich has 180 years of experience in the wool industry. Is there anything that is still the same in the wool industry?
While today’s outerwear market is filled with synthetic “super fibers” and technologies, people still reaching for the comfort and warmth of their wool garments. Essentially it hasn’t changed much in the last 180 years. Wool is still sheared from sheep and woven on looms, only in larger volumes than ever before. The properties of wool make it the perfect fabric for almost all weather conditions and activities- it's a natural insulator, it's breathable, it's temperature regulating, it's durable and stays warm, even when it gets wet. Wool is the original technical fabric, it's here to stay, and we have over 180 years of experience as proof.
Technological advancements and new production methods have led to many changes in the traditional wool fabric. Can you tell us about the major changes that have taken place in the woolen industry over the years and how have they impacted the entire industry?
Blends have been a major advancement in the wool industry. Anti-shrink blends have had the biggest impact on the industry, but blending has also helped to improve hand and performance qualities. It seems like each year there's something new out there or companies are finding new ways to use and enhance the classic fiber.
What is your opinion about the hybrid fabric made by mixing traditional wool with man-made fibers to create clothing? How do you foresee the prospects of hybrid garments?
We see this as the next coming of wool. Our design team has been hard at work designing several outerwear pieces that do just that. We are using wool in ways we never have before, including mixing it with other fabrics to make modern versions of some of our classic garments.
Woolgrowers could stand to benefit from a fashion trend toward tweed and tartan. Do you agree? Can you elaborate on it?
The tartan and tweed fashion trend has been very good for our business. We’ve increased our wool output of fabrics as well as wool sourced products over the last several years. Consumers currently have a strong appetite for wool for its performance properties. The increased demand is definitely benefiting woolgrowers, however it’s a commodity and a volatile market that affects everything from consumer pricing down to the growers. Like many things, it’s a case of supply and demand, and when the there is demand it’s good for the growers.
The ongoing 'Global Warming’ is going to be marked by more extreme temperatures. Do you foresee a rise in demand for woolens in the tropical regions during winters?
Definitely. The great thing about wool is its ability to regulate temperature. It’s already great for both ends of the heat spectrum. However, the future course of woolen innovation will likely lead to products that are even more relevant to those markets.
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