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New York students get a taste of Australian wool

2 March 2016

The Woolmark Company hosted a study tour of the Australian wool industry by tertiary students from New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology – educating them about the wool supply chain and inspiring them to use Australian wool in their future careers.

Students meeting with the David Jones marketing department

Students met with the David Jones marketing department to better understand Australia’s fashion industry

Globalisation. More than a buzzword, it’s a reality in today’s fashion industries. It’s more complicated than just selling products around the world. It’s about planning, strategising, sourcing, shipping, and marketing – often throughout countries with different trade policies, currencies, laws, infrastructures, and cultures. And now, sustainability – environmental and social responsibility – has entered the mix, as companies recognise that they can build brand value by becoming good corporate citizens.

These are all issues that tertiary students on the International Trade and Marketing program at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) are studying – and this year 18 of the college’s students Australia on a study trip to learn more about Australia’s wool industry and fashion markets.

Organised by the college as an elective course for its students at their own expense, The Woolmark Company hosted the group as part of the company’s continuing commitment to nurturing the education of future fashion, textile and interior designers.

The aim of the tour was to educate the students about Australian wool, and inspire them to use more of the fibre in their designs and encourage them to continue exploring this industry as they enter their careers. Equally however, the Australian woolgrowers and companies that the students visited were able to learn about the key market of the USA and the thoughts of the next generation entering the workforce.

Australia’s wool supply chain was showcased to the students, with the tour including visits to the Lal Lal Estate wool-growing property near Ballarat, the National Wool Museum at Geelong, the testing labs of Deakin University and the CSIRO, Merino undergarments manufacturer Ktena Knitting Mills in Fitzroy, the David Jones marketing team, the US Consulate for a briefing on the US-Australia Trade Agreement, a visit to a wool auction, and The Woolmark Company’s office to meet with key representatives from the industry.

New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology students at Lal Lal Estate

New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology students at Lal Lal Estate

A major component of the students’ visit was to each present their findings on a topic of choice. From researching Australian fashion trends and exploring the global wool supply chain, through to the role of Australian wool in activewear, all students reported they were amazed by wool’s properties and were keen to continue their exploration into this fibre and industry when they returned to New York.

Home Products Development student Olivia Arata explored the future of wool in the home products industry, by studying innovations in wool and how this will impact the interiors industry. She said the trip had inspired her to consider using wool within her degree and that her meeting with AWI and learning about wool’s UV resistance has encouraged her to consider creating wool curtains or outdoor cushions.

“Prior to my trip to Australia my knowledge of wool did exist, however not to the extent that I gained in Australia,” Olivia said. “The trip has significantly changed my outlook on wool. Being able to physically see and experience the manufacturing process wool goes through from start to finish was eye opening. Although I understood the manufacturing process prior to my trip, I never realised the extent of work that went into producing wool as an end product.

“Wool has so many versatile uses too, such as using Cool Wool fabrics, and this was probably the most significant thing that sparked my mind into thinking of all the great opportunities wool could have within the home textiles sector.”

Fellow student Jocelyn Bonneau, who was researching the hot topic of the role of wool in activewear, realised that she came to Australia with a limited knowledge of wool – but left not only better educated but also inspired to continue learning more about his premium, natural fibre.

“My trip to Australia has changed the way I think about wool in a lot of ways, and specifically, the advantages wool can have in activewear such as odour resistance, breathability, easy-to-care for, and the health benefits regarding sleep,” said Jocelyn. “With all these benefits, why wouldn't athletes want to wear more wool?

“I am currently working on designing and creating a wool-based golf apparel brand. As someone who loves the game of golf, I see an opening in the market for a golf brand that focuses on great design and uses the latest innovations of wool. With the benefits of wool, I see potential to help everyone from the causal golfer to the professional golfer.“