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May 16, 2012

May 16, 2012


For more information, contact:
Rita Kourlis Samuelson, 303-771-3500, ext. 29, or
Amy Trinidad 303-771-3500, ext. 55, or

DENVER, Colo. – The 81st annual International Wool Textile Organization Congress (IWTO), themed WOOL IN THE CITY, commenced on May 7 in New York City. The conference was hosted by the American Wool Council, a divison of the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), with 249 attendees from 23 countries and provided a forum for all segments of the wool industry to discuss trends and new opportunities. Attendees participated in sessions that focused on both technical advancements in wool processing as well as changes in marketing and product positioning.

The opening session included a keynote address from renown U.S. designer, Joseph Abboud. Abboud, who uses wool in almost 80 percent of all his collections, spoke to the congress about his career at HMX Group Inc. and his “love afair with wool.”

From his days as a design director at Ralph Lauren, to the development of his own collection and now as chief creative officer at HMX, Abboud says that wool has been the foundation for each one, citing, “I can’t imagine a world without wool.

“Wool has given me a new way to see fashion in the world,” says Abboud, who sources domestically, as well as globally, and still constructs some suit styles in the United States. “There is an ever-growing desire for those organic elements from our world that has nurtured, clothed and sheltered us from the beginning of history. What better example is there than wool…natural, renewable, sustainable.”

While discussing the opportunities that exist in the United States for creativity and innovation, Abboud requests that the wool industry continue to find it’s point of difference and offer brands and retailers the ability to convey their unique stories.

Abboud set the tone of the congress by discussing the need for wool products to be available at all levels of retail distribution and easily accessible to all generations. “There is no replacement for wool, but it is our obligation to find new ways to bring it to the market for younger consumers who are just learning what wool is. The industry needs to find a way to address the creativity in design.”

Relaying the situation of the U.S. sheep industry, Peter Orwick, ASI executive director, says, “We are in an upswing market now. We need to take advantage of the unique possiblities of wool and promote the U.S. supply base. In the United States, farms create 18 jobs for every 1,000 sheep. This is a unique story that can be marketed by global brands and retailers.”

John Fernsell, founder of IBEX Outdoor Clothing, closed the commercial suppliers forum speaking about the need for the wool industry to better communicate wool’s performance qualities and relay wool growers’ passion to the consumer. Fernsell says he “likes the price wool is at today,” further explaining that wool producers are facing rising costs and today’s prices are crucial to make the wool industry sustainable for the future.

This year’s congress also brought in the fashion and retail portion of the wool industry and provided the audience with insights into future market opporutnities and an understanding of the U.S. market situation. Participants learned how the lines of communication have started to blur between consumer and design professionals with the use of social media and that the design world is hungry to hear about wool’s story regarding sustainability and its organic appeal.

ASI director of wool marketing, Rita Kourlis Samuelson, says she is pleased with the U.S. wool-apparel companies’ participation in the congress in addition to the other segments of the industry, stating, “The industry is so passionate about wool. Wool is truly a natural, high-performance fiber with a richness that improves over time. The congress served to inspire an industry representing a fiber that is positioned to be rediscovered for its many attributes including breathability, fire resistance, easy care and comfort.”

Peter Ackroyd, president of IWTO, concluded the congress saying, “It was pleasing to hear so many upbeat and optimistic presentations about the return of wool in floor coverings, furnishings and fashion. Several keynote speakers at the congress underlined the absolute necessity to embrace social media and networking to pass on wool’s unrivalled message to younger consumers.”

ASI is the national trade organization supported by 45 state sheep associations, benefiting the interests of more than 81,000 sheep producers. For more information, please visit

IWTO is the international body representing the interests of the world’s wool-textile trade and industry. As such, its membership covers the woolgrowers, traders, primary processors, spinners and weavers of wool and allied fibers in its member-countries, as well as all kind of organizations related to wool products and the wool business in general. It provides for them a forum for discussion of problems of joint concern and acts as their spokesman with all those bodies and authorities towards whom a common approach is deemed necessary. For more information, please visit

HMX Group is America’s leading tailored clothing company, with a diverse portfolio of brands, both owned and licensed, that are distributed through all domestic retail channels as well as internationally. HMX Group brands include Hickey Freeman, Hart Schaffner Marx, Coppley, Christopher Blue, Exclusively Misook and Bobby Jones. For more information, please visit

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