Australian woolgrowers Louise and Chad Taylor in New York as competition winners of the Fibre of our Nation competition.
Last year’s Fibre of our Nation competition winners, Chad and Louise Taylor of Wellington, NSW, have recently returned to Australia after a visit to New York where they enthusiastically discussed helping to build the demand for wool with representatives from fashion retail brands and The Woolmark Company.
The Fibre of our Nation competition was held by The Woolmark Company's parent, Australian Wool Innovation (AWI). The project helped tap into the stories of heritage, custodianship, community and humour amongst people involved with the Australian wool industry. There were close to 150 submissions entered in the project – many of which are available to view on the AWI website – which have provided AWI and brands with a wonderful marketing resource.
“Lou and I had a wonderful trip to New York with the first few days spent talking to the senior management of a number of high fashion retail brands,” Chad said. “Most of these brands have had representatives visit our farm in the past few years so it was very interesting to meet with them and gain some perspective on our industry from their side of town.
“I was quietly amazed at how receptive these people were when given the chance to speak about how we manage our land and livestock at home in Australia. To hear of a rotational grazing system that not only sequesters carbon but also regenerates native grasslands was new to many of these people and exactly the sort of story they are looking to connect with.”
The Woolmark Company organised for the Taylors to meet with three senior managers of Brooks Brothers – the oldest menswear retailer in the United States – for a tour through their Manhattan store.
“We heard how Brooks Brothers has perfected the relationship they now have with the Saxon Merino woolgrowers to ensure the company has a continued supply of this quality fibre,” Chad said. “The fibre comes complete with its unique story to help create the want for people to buy a Brooks Brothers Saxon wool suit as opposed to a woollen suit from a competing brand.
“It’s a win for all involved in the deal. The customer is happy, Brooks Brothers has increased market share in the high-end suiting market, and there’s a healthy premium being paid to the growers. As an Australian woolgrower, this is the sort of relationship I aspire to and it would be exciting to see some industry level debate on how more opportunities like this one could be emulated.”
The Taylors also spent half a day with The Woolmark Company’s country manager for the Americas, Michelle Lee, based in New York.
“Michelle quickly showed herself to be a very positive and vibrant appointment with a great vision and plenty of energy. We discussed everything from shearing sheds to catwalk models and were impressed to find someone with a similar view on the importance of direct to farm relationships.
“Another impressive initiative discussed with Michelle was the re-launch of the International Woolmark Prize. This is a great way of encouraging fashion’s future leaders to use wool in their creations. It became clear on our tour that it is important to have these leading fashion brands enthusiastic about using wool because they are the people that influence fashion, globally. If their designs include wool then the profile of wool will be lifted and so too demand for the fibre.”
The Taylors acknowledged that The Woolmark Company has “initiated some innovative and powerful global promotions for wool” and think this work could be supported by some more specific campaigns encouraging brand owners to connect directly with woolgrowers.
“If growers can share the story behind the wool they grow and the passion they have for growing wool, then I’m sure Australian wool could soon be established as the world’s ‘in fibre’ for people to wear, particularly in the northern hemisphere, returning profitability to woolgrowing areas around Australia.”