Last Friday I attended the first ever wool conference held at Dumfries House in Scotland. The event was organised by Campaign for Wool and it gathered the key members of the wool industry encompassing fashion, interior, manufacturing and retail to discuss the challenges currently facing the industry and how to approach the future.
Three other apprentices from Chittleborough & Morgan, Henry Poole and Dege & Skinner joined me at the event where we displayed garments made especially for the event. His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, Patron of the Campaign for Wool gave many important messages on the importance of wool, he is one of the cloths biggest advocates and is also very supportive of young people training on Savile Row. It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to discuss my work and the intrinsic link between Savile Row and the wool industry with him. He really liked when I told him I recognised his suit and knew that it was one of ours that Mr Hitchcock had cut for him.
There were also some other amazing speakers and environmental campaigners in attendance who presented insightful information to the guests. People like Livia Firth, Orsola De Castro, British designer Sir Paul Smith and ecologist Alan Savory. I discovered that wool only represents 1.25% of the world fibre industry which is crazy because its natural properties make it a far superior choice when compared with oil based synthetic fibres, which represent 65% of the world fibre industry.
I made a tweed field jacket the inspiration of which came from the classic British image of farmers working through adverse and sometimes brutal weather. I wanted to make something that was extremely functional but also contemporary and smart. We had four cloth companies to choose from and I decided to collaborate with Abraham Moon. Their mill is based in Leeds and they are one of the last remaining vertically integrated wool mills in the UK.This means that all the processes from raw material to finished cloth are done on site. They mainly do household furnishing but they also have a huge selection of wool that are perfect for tailoring. Jennie my mentor is from the Lake District so we wanted to chose a cloth that reflected the colours you would see up in the fields of northern England and Scotland. I had the chance to meet the managing director, John Walsh, at the conference and I found out a great deal about the manufacturers history.
It was of paramount importance to me that all the materials used in the production of the jacket were natural and environmentally friendly. The lining of the jacket is made from Ventile, a completely natural waterproof cotton that was developed for pilots in World War II and is still used today as a performance textile. The wadding was my favourite part of the jacket; I wanted it to be quilted to keep anybody who wore it very warm. I used wadding from a company called HD Wool, what’s great about their wadding is that it is made from 75% wool and 25% PLA which is a natural plant based biodegradable polymer. Not only did this make the lining very plump when I applied steam it also means its very breathable, multi-climatic and flame retardant. The leather trimmings on the pockets and under collar were from ALMA leather.
During the break in the conference we were able to go and check out the sewing school which is based in Dumfries house. There they teach students different techniques, like applique and decorative sewing. All the cloth is reused and the school is great example of the power of upcycling. It was also lovely to meet UK cloth merchants like Johnstons of Elgin, Harris Tweed and recently graduated textile students.
The process has been extremely rewarding; it was great to have the help of Jennie and the cutters to create something different, unique and close to heart. Scotland was beautiful and I had so much fun at Dumfries House; environmental responsibility and the sustainability of the products we consume are very important to me so this opportunity was very special to me.