Woolgrower John Parnell and The Woolmark Company’s Alex Lai look on as Michell’s marketing manager Michael Blake explains the types of wool to the Hong Kong designers.
The designers’ tour was the prize for winning Australia Study Tour Scholarships sponsored by AWI, the Flinders Merino woolgrower group from South Australia and ‘Hamilton Run’ of Jamestown, South Australia.
The aim of the tour was to educate the young designers about Australian wool, and inspire them to use more of the fibre in their designs. Equally however, the Aussie woolgrowers and companies that the designers visited were able to learn about the key market of Hong Kong and the thoughts of its young fashion designers.
The designers’ tour included visits to rural properties where Merino is grown; AWEX and AWTA; Michell Pty Ltd in Adelaide, one of Australia’s largest exporters of Australian wool fibre and the largest carboniser of wool in the world; RMIT University’s School of Fashion and Textiles; EMU Australia and the National Wool Museum.
Visiting several woolgrowing properties in South Australia, the designers were shown the sheep, farms and landscape that define this iconic industry. Not only did the designers gain an intimate knowledge of wool and its production, the hospitality provided to them and the glimpse into woolgrowers’ lifestyle impressed them enormously.
Jean Chan from Hong Kong Polytechnic who won an award sponsored by Flinders Merino said she found the trip very inspiring.
“This trip offered a very valuable experience to me, be it learning new knowledge about woolgrowers in the Flinders or meeting new people. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Without the support of The Woolmark Company I would have never had the chance to visit the Flinders Ranges, to see this massive open space and to meet all these sincere, genuine and kind hearted people. I would like to thank The Woolmark Company and Flinders Merino for that.”
As the world’s only wholly owned vertical wool supply chain and as an important supplier of carbonised wool into the Hong Kong knitwear market, Michell was well suited to assist the tour and explain to the designers the complexities of the wool value chain. Michell has invested heavily in its supply chain and maintains early stage processing facilities in Adelaide whilst building in 2005 a new carbonising and superwashing facility in Suzhou, China. This investment in the future of wool has continued with the establishment of topmaking and spinning factories in Malaysia. Their baselayer Merino clothing brand IO-Merino is a natural extension of this supply chain and is sold in Europe, Japan and North America.
To assist in the tour and to help the Michell grower clients, the company’s marketing manager Michael Blake travelled to the Flinders Ranges with some of the designers. He explained to them how wool gets from the sheep’s back to the mill and other interesting wool technicalities.
Back at Michell’s premises in Adelaide, the designers were able to see the scouring and carbonising process of wool and learn about other stages of the wool supply chain, including combing and yarn spinning, right through to the retailing of the Michell IO-Merino garments.
Mr Blake said it was a pleasure for Michell Direct Wool to assist and show its wool processing facilities to the visitors.
“This whole tour was a great opportunity for the designers to see the source of wool production in one of the most spectacular settings, and credit must be given to the hosting woolgrowers from Flinders Merino for their time and effort.”
During their visits to AWEX and AWTA, the designers were taught about wool auctions, testing and controls.
AWEX wool technical officer Philip Jeffries, noted, “It was obvious that the designers all have a rich thirst for a greater knowledge of wool which no doubt will lead to these young and creative people considering wool as an alternative to synthetics for their future collections. The more time and effort spent on education and promotion will be paid back to the wool industry many times over.”
During their visit to EMU Australia, the designers learnt about the company’s operations. EMU Australia marketing and public relations co-ordinator Taryn Elder agreed the designers’ visit was highly beneficial.