Heritage accounts for a lot in the worlds of sport and fashion. So when Sydney's M.J. Bale was appointed the official tailor for the Australian cricket team, the label hit upon a clever way to bring the two together: by looming legacy into every garment.
A short film, Grazed on Greatness, documents M.J. Bale's bold initiative. The mini-documentary features appearances by veterans Michael Slater and Dougie Walters and the campaign, co-founded by The Woolmark Company, was recognised with five awards at the 59th Cannes Lions.
The tale begins on the hallowed turf of the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), touched by the soles of every major name to have played a role in the sport's proud history, from Bradman to Border. It's where the former broke batting records at the 1930 Sheffield Shield - Sir Donald was just 21 at the time - and where the latter made his post grade cricket debut. Playing for New South Wales (NSW) in 1977, Allan claimed victory against Queensland.
In 2012, Tom Parker, SCG groundsman since 1997, removed a plug of the famous turf and sent it to Armidale in the northern tablelands of NSW. Once there, Superfine Merino woolgrower Bill Mitchell propagated the grass on his property.
"There's really no limit as to how much grass you can grow out of that piece of turf if you look after it correctly and put the time in to it," Parker explains in the film.
Under Parker's instructions, Mitchell replanted the plug, over time extending it across the paddock until it was ready to be turned over to his flock for grazing.
"We all know that good grass grows good wool," Mitchell says, "but we didn’t think grass from the SCG would be that much better."
It was. And Mitchell reaped enough fleece to outfit the entire Australian Cricket Team. As with all M.J. Bale garments, the raw fibres were then sent to the textile mills of Northern Italy before heading to Japan for construction.
Test player Shane Watson, taking ownership of the first custom made, pure wool suit to be threaded with victory, says, "It's a very special feeling because you know where the wool has come from."
M.J. Bale is a big proponent of Australian Merino - founder and CEO, Matt Jensen, has a particular affinity for wool, having grown up on a sheep farm in Yass, NSW.
"My dad worked very, very hard to do what he did as a farmer so you get that great respect for the fibre," Jensen says. "You realise that the effort that goes into just getting it to that point."
For these limited edition suits, that little extra effort has infused every yarn with a sense of history.
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