History of the Woolmark Brand

The Woolmark logo has adorned wool products for 50 years, showcasing the extraordinary versatility and innate luxury of wool.

THE WOOLMARK LOGO 

In 1964, the iconic Woolmark symbol was born. Its purpose: to act as an independent quality assurance of every wool product it adorns - more than 5 billion of them, so far, making the Woolmark brand the best-known textile quality brand and wool content label in the world.

As the global authority on wool, The Woolmark Company works with textile and fashion industries at every level, developing better wool textiles and driving consumer demand. The Woolmark Company’s relations with the fashion world also make us well-placed to nurture fresh talent in fashion design.

RICH HISTORY 

During the 1930s a handful of the world’s top wool-producing countries decided it was in their best interest to promote their product on an international scale. Australia took charge and in 1936 woolgrowers voted to impose a 6 pence levy for each bale produced, with the funds to be directed to research and promotion. Then, on July 1 1937 the International Wool Publicity and Research Secretariat was formed – which was quickly renamed the International Wool Secretariat (IWS). Based in London the IWS had offices in every major wool-producing country by the mid-1950s.

In 1954 the IWS Prize was established. This coveted award recognised excellence and innovation in fashion and promoted wool in its most pure form – natural and luxurious. This was the original incarnation of the International Woolmark Prize.

A new competitor emerged during World War II, synthetics, and by the 1960s nylon, polyester and acrylic were fast becoming household names. To combat the rise of unnatural fibres IWS Australian general manager William Vines penned the idea of a unique label which would guarantee the fibre content and quality of wool.

In 1964 the Woolmark logo was born and has since grown to be universally known to be the marker of quality wool products.

By 1970 Australia had a record 180 million sheep and within a few years wool exports had passed the $1 billion mark for the first time since the Korean War boom. While Australia was seemingly enjoying riding on the sheep’s back, the Australian Wool Corporation was established in 1973 as a single marketing-oriented body to facilitate research, promotion and marketing operations.

The 1980s saw the opening of the Chinese economy which emerged as a major market for Australian wool. The Australian wool industry continued to thrive and form the backbone of the Australian economy. But between January 1988 and February 1991 the wool industry collapsed - largely due to the ceasing of the reserved pricing scheme.

The Australian Wool Research and Promotion Organisation (AWRAP) was established in December 1993. In 1994 the activities of AWRAP and the IWS were merged and were governed as one organisation under the control of AWRAP.

The Woolmark Company (TWC) was established in 1997, as a result of the IWS undergoing a change of name.

In 2001, AWRAP was converted into a Corporations Law company to become Australian Wool Services Ltd (AWS). AWS was the holding company for two subsidiaries, Australian Wool Innovation Ltd (AWI) and TWC.

In 2002, AWI separated from AWS to become a fully independent company. Both AWI and TWC retained their initial responsibilities – AWI investing in R&D projects, and TWC the promotion of Australian wool and the commercial development of the Woolmark and other associated brands.

In 2007 AWI purchased TWC and the Woolmark brand from AWS. Since then, AWI has had responsibility for R&D, marketing and the provision of industry services. TWC continues to affirm the iconic Woolmark logo within households and companies on an international scale.

Woolmark Creator

MYSTERIOUS PAST 

The Woolmark logo – five black bands criss-crossing to form a skein – represents the softness, elegance and purity of wool. In April 2011, leading visual communication magazine Creative Review announced it was the number one logo of all time.

But perhaps what is more interesting to note is the mystery which surrounds the creation of the now iconic Woolmark logo.

When the IWS announced a logo competition in 1963, it declared the design by ‘Francesco Saroglia’ as the winner. However, it appears Saroglia disappeared without a trace after being named the winning designer – there are no books or web pages featuring any of his other works, no records of exhibitions or information about the man behind the artwork.

A new book titled TN: The untold stories behind 29 classic logos, by Creative Review’s Mark Sinclair, declares that the logo was in fact created by well-known Italian designer Franco Grignani.

Sinclair uncovers, through Grignani’s daughter Manuela Grignani, that Grignani was a member of the jury panel for the IWS logo competition. Allegedly, Grignani was shown the design entries but deemed them to be of poor standard, and so created the winning entry under the alias of Francesco Saroglia. Manuela Grignani explains how her father had designed the symbol while at dinner one evening, on a tablecloth using a fork.

And while Grignani was never officially credited for the creation of one of the world’s most iconic logos whilst he was alive, his daughter says “for him it would be a great posthumous joy to see the acknowledgment of his generous talent”.