The Woolmark Company's commitment to China reflected at CHIC 2014

31 March 2014

The Woolmark Company’s presence at CHIC 2014 in Beijing was its biggest ever, reflecting the global authority on wool’s commitment to the Chinese market, government bodies and the ventures implemented by the China National Textile and Apparel Council.

The Woolmark Company presented its latest edition of The Wool Lab at CHIC, dedicated to spring/summer 2015. This was the biggest presence the global authority of wool has ever had at the CHIC trade show.

The Australian Ambassador to China, Her Excellency Ms Frances Adamson, officially opened The Woolmark Company’s stand at CHIC, accompanied by Honorary Chairman of China National Textile and Apparel Council Mr Du Yuzhou, and Deputy Director of China National Textile and Apparel Council Mr Zhang Yankai.

About 83 per cent of all Australian Merino wool that is produced is exported to China. Traditionally, the vast majority of this wool was processed and re-exported. Yet today around 32 per cent of Australian Merino wool stays within the Chinese market. Chinese consumers and textile companies are becoming increasingly aware of the fibre's natural inherent benefits.

Because of its extraordinary softness and exceptional performance, Australian Merino wool has long been a key fibre for leading British and European menswear and womenswear brands, with those that sell into China, such as Gieves & Hawkes and Cerruti, often highlighting the central role of Australian Merino wool in their collections.

But, as highlighted at CHIC, some major Chinese textile brands are now also starting to tell the Australian Merino wool story, and are already being rewarded for doing so. Towards the end of 2013, Youngor, one of the country’s largest fashion retailers, ran a joint Australian Merino wool promotion with The Woolmark Company, and by mid-January was reporting a 20 per cent increase in all wool sales in participating stores.   

“Not very long ago the premium and luxury garments market here was all about prestigious labels,” explains The Woolmark Company’s Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer Rob Langtry.

“But Chinese consumers are now showing a real interest in ingredient branding. That means not just the garment itself and the style of it, but the story behind it – how the fabric is made, where the fibre comes from, and what makes it special. And when it comes to all those things, nobody has a better story to tell than Australian Merino wool.”

Woolmark Gold at CHIC

The Woolmark Company exhibited fabrics from the exclusive Woolmark Gold range, which made its debut in China last year, and has been described as the world's first international gold standard of fabric for fine tailoring.

Gieves & Hawkes Product General Manager Charles Lassman gave a special speech at CHIC 2014 to explain Gieves & Hawkes integrated Woolmark Gold fabric integrated Woolmark Gold fabric into its collections for Greater China markets. 

“The Chinese luxury and premium menswear customer has become very sophisticated over the past five years,” Mr Lassman said.

“We must ensure that we not only communicate the history of Gieves & Hawkes, the great quality of our design and excellent craftsmanship of our tailoring, we today must also highlight the very high standards of the materials that we use. Woolmark Gold represents the best and finest of Australian Merino wool which is why we have included this in our collection.”

Woolmark Gold sets a global benchmark for fine tailoring, a standard shared by Gieves & Hawkes, a company that has prided itself on uncompromising standards of both material and manufacture for more than 200 years.

Gieves & Hawkes Managing Director Ray Clacher describes the affiliation with Woolmark Gold as a natural fit.

“Our company has a longstanding tradition of craftsmanship, selecting only the finest fabrics available in the world. The Chinese consumer demands the real thing and Woolmark Gold gives us a genuine seal of approval.”

New partnerships

Labi, a leading Chinese babywear producer and brand with more than 800 retail stores across China has decided to introduce a premium range of Australian Merino wool babywear to the Chinese market. The announcement was made during CHIC 2014 after meetings between Labi General Manager Lin Ruowen and The Woolmark Company’s Rob Langtry.

Under this partnership, Labi will develop a range of Australian Merino wool babywear targeting the premium segment of the Chinese babywear market. The Woolmark Company will support Labi with advice on production, new product development and the development of a marketing strategy for their new Australian Merino range of babywear, which will be launched by mid-2014.

“Labi is a very successful company in China and we are very happy to welcome them as a new Woolmark partner in China,” Mr Langtry said.

New Connections

In addition, Mr Langtry led a busy and intense schedule of meetings at CHIC, with national and provincial government organisations and large-scale premium retail, brand and manufacturing companies. These meetings were designed to introduce The Woolmark Company’s innovations and support services, as well as understand the demand cycle and business needs at the premium end of the China domestic apparel market.

Among the 20 companies that Mr Langtry met with at CHIC, meetings were held with the senior management of companies such as Dalian Trands and Red Collar of Qingdao. Dalian Trands and Red Collar are among the world’s largest business suit manufacturers.