Carpet: Campaign for Wool touts the benefits of all-natural fiber

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January 2/9, 2017: Volume 31, Number 15
By Ken Ryan

British Royalty will be supremely represented at Surfaces 2017, at least in the figurative sense. The Campaign for Wool (CfW) will attend Surfaces with a Declaration launched by Prince Charles, a.k.a., His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, outlining the international standards of the wool industry in caring for sheep and the benefits of choosing real wool for interiors and fashion. CfW will be at booth 6353.

The Declaration was announced by the Prince, the Patron of the CfW, in September 2016 at the Dumfries House Wool Congress in Scotland. This event brought together the entire wool supply chain, from key farmers and growers to buyers and fashion designers. The event culminated in the signing of the Dumfries House Declaration, a pledge to all major fashion retailers from across the Commonwealth to support the use of wool. The Prince also announced his ongoing commitment to the CfW, which he set up in 2010 to build better understanding of the fiber’s natural sustainability and overall environmental benefits.

At Surfaces, The CfW will show off its new platform, which positions wool to both consumers and retailers. According to CfW, retailers who are serious about the fiber would have the opportunity to achieve “Wool Specialist” accreditation later in 2017 through an online program. To register, carpet retailers will be required to participate in a short test program and show they represent a number of quality wool brands.

This year CfW plans to meet with wool growers, manufacturers, designers, and retailers to help spread the good word about wool. “The Campaign for Wool is very focused on promoting the performance assets of the fiber and building better understanding of those at the retail level,” said Bridgette Kelly, interior textiles director, CfW. “Our aim of inspiring and educating ensures the story of wool reaches consumers and they are informed about the long-lasting benefits of choosing wool for the home.”

Columbia, Md.-based The Vertical Connection, a Carpet One Floor & Home dealer, had relatively good success with wool over the years. “It’s primarily driven by the designer segment,” said Adam Joss, co-owner. “Additionally, if the story—features and benefits—is told correctly to the proper client you can be successful selling wool. It takes practice and confidence.”

Wool accounts for roughly 3% of the worldwide fiber market, according to the latest World Apparel Fiber Consumption survey. Synthetic fibers account for the greatest percentage at 48.2% of the market. Despite its small share, wool offers many attributes that flooring dealers can leverage. Fortunately for wool, there are many stories to tell. For starters, it is a 100% natural protein fiber formed in the skin of sheep, and it is recognized as one of the most effective forms of all-weather protection.

Some other notable facts:

It is renewable. As long as there is grass to graze on, every year sheep will produce a new fleece, thus making wool a renewable fiber source. Woolgrowers actively work to safeguard the environment and improve efficiency, aiming to make the wool industry sustainable for future generations.

It is biodegradable. At the end of its useful life, wool can be returned to the soil, where it decomposes, releasing valuable nutrients into the ground. When a natural wool fiber is disposed of in soil, it takes a very short time to break down, whereas most synthetics are extremely slow to degrade.

Wool is a hygroscopic fiber. As the humidity of the surrounding air rises and falls, the fiber absorbs and releases water vapor. Heat is generated and retained during the absorption phase, which makes wool a natural insulator. Used in the home, wool insulation helps to reduce energy costs and prevents the loss of energy to the external environment, thus reducing carbon emissions.

Wool fibers are crimped and when tightly packed together they form millions of tiny pockets of air. This unique structure allows it to absorb and release moisture—either in the atmosphere or perspiration from the wearer—without compromising its thermal efficiency. Wool has a large capacity to absorb moisture vapor (up to 30% of its own weight) next to the skin, making it extremely breathable.

Wool fibers resist tearing and are able to be bent back over 20,000 times without breaking. Due to its crimped structure wool is also naturally elastic, and so wool garments have the ability to stretch comfortably with the wearer but are then able to return to their natural shape, making them resistant to wrinkling and sagging.

Wool is not known to cause allergies and does not promote the growth of bacteria. It can even reduce floating dust in the atmosphere, as the fiber’s microscopic scales are able to trap and hold dust in the top layers until vacuumed away. Thanks to its high water and nitrogen content, wool is naturally flame retardant and has a far higher ignition threshold than many other fibers. Furthermore, it will not melt and stick to the skin causing burns, and produces less noxious fumes that cause death in fire situations. Wool also has a naturally high level of UV protection, which is much higher than most synthetics and cotton.

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