The Mercerised Merino process uses special technology and chemistry to reduce the thickness of the wool scales to make the fibre surface smoother.
Improving technology and innovation play critical parts in the role of The Woolmark Company and Mercerised Merino is one example of how innovation is being used in the real world and is making waves in the luxury apparel market.
The Woolmark Company general manager for product development and commercialisation, Jimmy Jackson, said the process of Mercerised Merino had been improved over the years, resulting in an end product which could feel as soft as cashmere.
“Mercerised Merino is now very well established, particularly in the main manufacturing sectors such as China and Italy,” Mr Jackson said.
“It is difficult to be entirely accurate, but from the data we collect we believe there is more than 10 million kilograms of Australian Merino wool treated to become Mercerised Merino. Whilst some goes into woven fabrics, the majority is for the knitwear sector.”
The demand for Mercerised Merino comes from the luxury apparel market, where consumers seek garments which look and feel soft. And while the Merino fibre is naturally already soft and beautiful the process of mercerisation enhances the look and feel of the fibre, whilst retaining all its natural advantages. It allows for greater softness, comfort and fluidity – delivering the look of silk and the feel of cashmere at a fraction of the price.
“The Mercerised Merino process uses special technology and chemistry to reduce the thickness of the wool scales to make the fibre surface smoother. By oxidising the fibre the scale structure is loosened, making the fibre feel soft like cashmere; then the fibre is placed in an alkaline bath which dissolves the scale structure and makes the fibre appear brighter and more lustrous. A silicone polymer is also applied, increasing the fibre’s natural softness.
“Whilst the perceived feel of the fibre is about two microns finer, the actual micron does not change.”
Another exciting advantage of Mercerised Merino is that it is highly compatible with other noble fibres such as cashmere and silk. This has enabled The Woolmark Company to work with leading cashmere spinners and there is currently an extensive range of blended yarns available on the market.
“Leading cashmere spinners now offer extensive ranges of wool-rich mercerised Merino/cashmere yarns, such as Chinese manufacturers Ningbo Consinee Woollen Company and Zhejiang Zhongding Textile Co Ltd.
“By blending Mercerised Merino with cashmere, the actual burst strength is also improved by 15 to 20 per cent.”
The development of Mercerised Merino has also enabled The Woolmark Company to create a range of new products, such as fur coats and trims, made from 100 per cent wool. According to Mr Jackson, by removing the scales from a wool fibre the luxurious look of animal fur can be achieved, and it also prevents the fibres from matting together in wet weather.
“Italian manufacturer Guasti and China’s Nantung Hongyang are two examples of companies which have already adopted this treatment process,” Mr Jackson said.