Wool’s increased fashion focus evident in Milano Unica

17 February 2016

The colour blue continues to dominate both the textile and fashion world, and Merino wool’s popularity as a summer fibre is increasing, as discovered by Janet Prescott at the recent Milano Unica trade fair.

Anyone looking for the way wool is striding across seasons could have seen it in the collections at the recent Milano Unica, held February 9-11.

Close attention to its particularly appropriate virtues has meant that wool is a more natural choice than it was even a few seasons ago for summer-wear. Interestingly, it is not just the new treatments and approaches to fine wool that are making the running, though there are plenty of them included in most of the Milano Unica collections, especially among the Italian exhibitors. If you talk to the long-established, very high-quality mills at Milano Unica they have taken a fresh look at the lightweight qualities and patterns that used to be evident in summer-wear 50 or more years ago, and are finding a ready interest.

Frescos, crepes and twists help to give a crisp feel to the type of cloth, not too lightweight, which can be readily made into the modern unlined jacket - the staple semi-formal wear seen as a regular feature of Pitti Uomo and other trending menswear shows. Several British mills had found this to be true, including the stylish Fox Brothers, along with a very English Alfred Brown lightweight worsted wool in a restrained summer check put next to a lacy sparkling piece of nothing in the trend area, giving it a whole new window on the world.

Summer checks by Alfred Brown.

Summer checks by Alfred Brown. ALL PHOTOS: Lloyd Almond.

The Woolmark Company and individual mills’ detailed and established work on extending and exploiting wool’s comfort and performance aspects has resulted in ‘an explosion of wool’ as Italian mill Reda put it. Dormeuil has invented Exxel - the surprising fabric which can stretch and spring back almost 25 per cent without the addition of other fibres. Wool is not just extolled for its showerproof qualities, its tendency to spring back after it’s been scrunched up and its insulating thermal regulating aspects. Now it is being used in high-tech, seriously active areas such winter sports, high-level walking, cycling and team sports, as well as the highly lucrative golf areas. 

SUPER STRETCH: Exxel by Dormeuil

SUPER STRETCH: Exxel by Dormeuil

As such, wool was seen and conquered at both ISPO  and at Milano Unica. There was an extra fashion element as wool formed a crucial component in the impressively technical layers developed by the big names in the fabric and fashion world - Loro Piana, Reda, Cerruti 1881 and Vitale Barberis Canonico, using membranes, windproof coatings and other ingredients in the battle against the elements. Because this is an area gathering momentum, there were numerous examples of classic Prince of Wales, microchecks, blazerings and shadow designs in wool, with the added attraction of a membrane or coating, as seen in stylish samples at Reda.

Colourful wool fabrics by Reda

Colourful wool fabrics by Reda

Blends with wool included silk - sometimes 20 per cent, sometimes half and half – and this shiny, lustrous look interpreted in various designs remains important in 2017. The matte look was achieved with twisted yarns and by blending or weaving wool with linen or cotton, producing interesting handles as well as appearance.

Worsted wool blazers, summer perennials - recoloured with wine, red, yellow, ginger and other arresting combinations in brightly coloured wool checks - pandered to the younger generation’s aesthetic for leisure and work, keeping the modern matching suit almost exclusively as a purchase for formal occasions.  

There was no getting away from the fact that denim blue, Chinese blue, sky blue, electric blue  or even neon shades of blue were a big story, seen at Cerruti 1881, Dormeuil, Reda and Bower Roebuck. Sometimes the same shade of bright blue was mixed and matched with various designs; micro checks, shadow stripes, vestigial jacquards or self-coloured prints, all striving for a 3-dimensional look.

Dormeuil joins the pack of blue

It is ensuring that blue keeps its place as the most worn colour in the world ‘we are ensuring that every man has a blue wool jacket in his wardrobe’. It is the expression of the words of Nino Cerruti recently that the textile and fashion world has to listen to a new discerning generation.