When Chanel announced this month that it was taking over a cashmere mill in the Scottish border town of Hawick, it was more than a story of a luxury company riding in shining armor to the rescue.
In buying Barrie, the knitwear company that filed for bankruptcy, the French fashion design house was putting knitting up there with other noble crafts.
Announcing the Scottish investment, which will safeguard 176 jobs, Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel's fashion president, said, "The acquisition of Barrie business by Chanel is all the more natural as the factory has worked with us for more than 25 years, producing cashmere knitwear including Chanel's iconic two-tone cashmere cardigans.
"Through this acquisition, we reaffirm our commitment to traditional expertise and craftsmanship, and our wish to safeguard their future and support their development," the executive said.
As the Campaign for Wool, supported by Prince Charles, put it, "All we are saying is give fleece a chance."
The initiative is a coalition of industry groups aiming to educate people about the benefits of wool and also to highlight its premium quality.
"It is to explain the benefits of this wonderful natural fiber and to raise awareness," the prince said, adding that he thought not using wool was "a waste of a valuable renewable project."
Fashion has re-embraced knitwear this autumn. Major brands have pushed thick wool to the forefront. And, significantly, after years of being reduced to a fashion afterthought as a little cardigan or a lacy sweater, this 2012 winter season has seen the renaissance of the bold, bulky and chunky sweater.
Yet, the whole point of the new knitwear is to use the lightest of yarns to give an illusion of dense and thick knit, when light and airy is the reality. Instead of body hugging, curvy shapes, the new-look sweaters and cardigans stand away from the torso, maybe curving up at the front and down at the back. As likely to be worn with skirts as pants, the head-to-toe knit look is also back in Vogue for the first time since the mix-and-match sportswear of the 1970s.
The story is more about the quality and authenticity of a pure wool product, particularly in a fashion world when the traditional winter coat is often now exchanged for down-filled nylon or other synthetic fabrics.
Wool is the ultimate ethical product, created naturally, sheared off with no harm to sheep and available hand- or machine-made with no effect on its handler.
Reprinted in part from The New York Times