When the future King of England speaks, people listen. His Royal Highness, Charles, the Prince of Wales, has garnered much attention over the years for his charity work and elegant men’s wool coats. He is the heir to the throne after all so a refined men’s dress code is expected. But in addition, he has been a spokesman for environmental causes, sustainable finance, and his Campaign for Wool.
Why did Prince Charles become involved in the Campaign? And what is it? Prince Charles, along with members of the Royal family, has long been a proponent of environmental stewardship. He even champions sustainable agriculture on his own farm, aptly named the “Home Farm.” The Prince sells his certified organic produce through the Duchy Originals brand, as well as, wholesale to local businesses, in turn helping sustain his community. Being a farmer himself, he has always made it a priority to visit farmers and offer support while on official business throughout the Commonwealth.
The Prince also realizes the plight sheep farmers have experienced in the past two decades as petroleum-based synthetic fibers pushed them out - as well as the extraordinary environmental benefits of wool. Up until recently, sheep farmers had received marginal prices for both lamb and wool as their market shrank. He has taken it upon himself to be a true promoter of wool; often seen donning wool overcoats of his own. Wool is a passion of his, and what better man to promote a wool marketing campaign than him and so we have the Campaign for Wool.
Officially launched in 2010, the Campaign for Wool immediately captured media attention as London’s historic Saville Row was transformed into a sheep paddock. Over 100 companies took part in the festivities, showcasing products ranging from loden coats to home furnishings. Every year since, the launch has seen more participation. In 2012 even China got its taste of the Campaign with an official launch party.
What exactly is the Campaign for Wool? It is a wool industry supported marketing initiative working to educate consumers on the benefits of wool. Carefully vetted companies that maintain high ethical standards of wool production, or are otherwise involved in the wool industry by using wool in their products, can become official sponsors of the Campaign. In return, they gain recognition, exclusive access to the logo, and a network dedicated to promoting awareness of the benefits of wool.
Benefits of Pure Natural Wool
Hundreds of unique businesses participate in the Campaign for Wool. Using wool and participating in the Campaign allows them to really flaunt the numerous benefits wool has over manmade fibers. For instance, wool is non-flammable and will not melt like synthetic fabrics. Wool is hydrophilic, meaning it can absorb moisture. Studies have shown wool to absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture, keeping the wearer dry in adverse conditions. Being a natural fiber, wool allows the skin to breathe, unlike synthetics that choke out air. Its ability to breath also makes it an excellent insulator, cooling in the summer and warming in the winter.
The Campaign seeks to help traditional woolen clothing manufacturers, whose market has diminished by the onslaught of cheap synthetic fibers and customers who don’t know the difference. Traditional woolen garments, like men's wool overcoats and women's wool coats, had lost their foothold in the age of synthetics. The Campaign is breathing new life into the market, spotlighting wool, and people are beginning to realize the benefits of wearing wool again.
Environmental Credentials of Wool Clothing
Choosing wool has a multitude of benefits from its insulating properties to its stretch, but none greater than the environmental footprint. Wool can come from farms that are actually using sheep as a means to regenerate the land. Through proper management and rotational grazing, sheep can heal degraded land, induce more grass growth, and sustain communities. Grasslands sequester far more carbon than row crop farms and oil fields, often offsetting some transportation emissions created during the supply chain.
Sheep growing the wool to produce overcoats.
Once the wool enters the supply chain, being made into loden coats and other attire, it is at risk of shedding. However, since wool is biodegradable there is no undue environmental harm. Synthetic fabrics, on the other hand, shed tiny, microscopic filaments when washed or agitated. These plastic microfibers are found literally everywhere on Earth. Wool’s ecological credentials are a big part of the Campaign and something very near and dear to Prince Charles.
The financial side of the wool industry has seen a benefit from the Campaign. While there hasn’t been an increase in overall wool sales since the launch (as evidenced in the 2018 Textile Exchange Market Report), there has been a swell of interest in niche markets, specifically activewear and classical wear, such as wool overcoats and sweaters. A key to any wool clothing company’s success is sharing the story. Consumers are re-recognizing the benefits of wool, and the future looks bright.