For as long as human beings have worn clothes, they’ve had a close relationship with wool. No other natural fibre is as versatile. No man-made fibre looks, feels, or performs like it. An entirely renewable resource, wool is also remarkably easy to make; all you need is water, sunlight and grass.
And sheep, of course. But there are many different breeds of sheep, in many parts of the world. Most of the wool used to make clothes, however, comes from just one breed, Merino, and the vast majority of the world's Merino sheep live in Australia.
The reason Merino wool is so sought-after is that its fibres are, quite literally, the finest. But that hasn't deterred generations of Australian sheep breeders from making it even finer.
Competition between these sheep breeders is fierce; only a tiny percentage of the Merino wool they grow is transformed into the luxurious cloths and fabrics demanded by the world’s most exclusive tailors and couturiers.
Most of the mills where these cloths are woven and spun are located in Europe, and in Italy, northern England and Scotland in particular. Some have been operated by the same families for centuries, and like the Merino farmers who supply them they take pride in maintaining traditional standards of excellence.
But they also share a commitment to innovation, and the launch of Woolmark Gold is the result of that.
The campaign was established to meet this increasing demand for premium products and fibres, and allows luxury consumers to know more about the story behind the Merino wool product.
A cloth or fabric must meet strict criteria to qualify for Woolmark Gold status. First it must be made from only new Australian Merino wool with a fibre width of 19.5 microns or less (that's 43 per cent finer than human hair).
Then, it must have been woven or spun by one of a select group of just 12 British and European Woolmark Gold-accredited weavers and spinners, some of whom have been owned and operated by the same families for centuries.