Claudia Dillmann (The Swedish Sheep Breeding Association), Jodi Everding (Filippa K) and Linda Nydén (Smart Textiles/University of Borås) together told the story of the Swedish Wool initiative (SWI).It all started in November 2019 when several Swedish outdoor and fashion companies gathered. Together the companies wanted to buy Swedish wool to develop collections. Something that these Swedish companies really demand is traceability and ethically produced wool and this initiative would be a good way to get it.
As introduction Claudia Dillmann presented the current wool situation in Sweden. 2019 there was a Vinnovaproject called Circular Woolclothes in cooperation with LRF (the Federation of Swedish Farmers), Smart Textiles/University of Boras and the Swedish brands Filippa K and Röjk Superwear. The goal was to produce sustainably wool garments from Swedish wool. The project made an inventory of the whole wool value chain from farmers, shearers, scouring and spinning mills, etc. to map out what types and amounts of wool that are available. The yearly Swedish wool production was estimated to 1200 t, where only 37% is used but nearly 75% could be used. The inventory focused on crossbreed wool, as it is the biggest amount in Sweden.
Jodi Everding continued and talked about the good relation to wool in the fashion company Filippa K. They love wool because it is a versatile, durable and circular material! Wool is the second most used fibre in their 2019 collection. The company is currently sourcing wool from Australia, South Africa and South America, but they would really like to use Swedish wool, for several reasons. Using swedish wool gives benefits with good animal welfare, can reduce the carbon footprint of their products, and reinvigorates the textile industry in Sweden.
During 2018-19 Filippa K developed a sweater called Elin from Swedish wool. All wool was bought from one farm – Norrby farm in Kungsör. They have crossbreed sheep (finndorset) with fine wool (23-26 micron) in enough amounts. Scouring took place in Sweden at Ullkontoret, spinning in Italy and knitting in Romania. 140 sweaters were made and introduced to the market in fall 2019 for 1800 SEK each (retail price). All was sold out. Filippa K hopes that the cooperation in SWI will make it easier for them to use Swedish wool in the future. Using Swedish wool should not be a competitive advantage between companies. It is much better to buy together and have the same supply chains.
Linda Nydén then described the main purposes with the SWI: using more Swedish wool, enable Swedish brands to buy Swedish wool and enable farmers and shearers to get paid a fair price for their wool. The first step is to buy the Swedish wool together, send the batch for scouring in Europe and share the expenses and then use parts of the retailers own value chain. We also need to continue collaborating and increasing knowledge.
Next step will be to process as much wool as possible in Sweden. But first we must fill the gaps in the value chain. We need to find funding for investment, like machinery, to get a reliable infrastructure for wool processing in Sweden. Now we are bringing in new project leader (Axfoundation) to help us organize and scale up the project.
After the SWI presentation there was a short discussion about wool, trends and fashion. We are in a wool trend now, but how can we make it last? We need to market wool with long lasting timeless design and quality. A wool piece is an investment as wool will keep and look good for many years. No teen-age design or attitude. We will see a flashback from the global “cheap” fashion industry and we need to be prepared with arguments for wool! Luxury to buy better and less? We need to change the attitude towards clothes and fashion.
What will happen in the next years? Hopefully things will move forward, building infrastructure, collecting, classifying, more shearers (there are only 10 full-time shearers in Sweden today). More than fashion – all textile industry should work with wool.