IWTO Congress Celebrates Wool

Combining Italy’s rich wool heritage with the latest research and developments in wool applications, the 88th Congress of the International Wool Textile Organization concluded earlier this month in Venice, Italy.

More than 320 delegates representing all stages of the global wool textile pipeline attended the annual three-day event. Of these, 25 delegates attended as part of IWTO’s Young Professionals Program, which has welcomed more than 100 young members of the industry since 2012.

The third day of the congress was hosted by The Benetton Group at its headquarters in Treviso, Italy, while a visit to The Marzotto Group provided insight into one of the biggest users of fine wool.

The program highlighted developments in wool traceability, transparency in the supply chain, and research on wool’s contributions to health and wellness, but sustainability took center stage.

“The time for wool is now,” said keynote speaker Livia Firth, co-founder and creative director of Eco-Age, as she commented on the devastating impact of plastic and synthetic fibers in the world.

The subject was returned to throughout the three-day event, notably by Evelyne Orndorff, senior textiles engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

“In space, nothing is disposable,” Orndorff told delegates, and wool baselayers won out in NASA’s independent investigations not only for their ease of care and ability to continue to smell fresh after repeated wears, but due to wool’s human factors. “The longer we stay in space, the more important the human factors of comfort, odor, static and preference become.”

That the merits of wool surpass competing fibers comes as no surprise to those inside the industry, yet “the very genuine message of environmental excellence that wool carries is in danger of being swamped by spuriously well-funded messages from the inherently unsustainable,” warned IWTO President Peter Ackroyd in his opening address.

“It is entirely ethically possible for anyone who wishes to abstain from meat, fish and diary to use wool for the well-being of the planet,” he said. “The revival of ethics in lifestyle and fashion mean choices that last and stand the test of time, without in any way contributing to a global eco imbalance.”

Along with its intrinsic links to sustainability, wool contributes in many ways to human health and well-being.

Beginning with Woolcool’s presentation on how wool insulation provides more stable climate control for international shipment of vaccines, a session devoted to health and wellness also featured research into the ways in which wool baselayers provide a more stable microclimate for eczema sufferers.

The session concluded with a presentation of NASA’s rigorous studies testing the merits of different fibers for the conditions of life in space, along with Armadillo Merino’s sometimes graphic footage of the consequences of omitting wool baselayers from next-to-skin clothing for tactical operators and professionals performing in high-risk environments.

Other sessions covered wool market intelligence with speakers Joe Farren of British Wool and Giovanni Schneider of The Schneider Group; sustainability with Dr Paul Swan, Harriet Vocking of Eco-Age and Giorgio Todesco of Marzotto Wool Manufacturing; retail insights with Heinz Zeller of Hugo Boss and Marshall Allender of Campaign for Wool; and wool interiors with Ennio Santagiuliana of Lanerossi.

The 89th annual IWTO Congress will be held in Tongxiang, China, on May 18-20, 2020.

Source: IWTO