Often overshadowed by its synthetic counter product, the vast benefits of wool have long been overlooked. In the past consumers and manufacturers have opted for synthetic fibres such as acrylic, polyester and nylon for their cheapness and ease to produce in large quantities. However, with designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Alexander Wang waxing lyrical about the benefits of wool along with a new surge of environmentally conscious consumers, it seems wool is finally getting the appreciation it deserves. After all wool is a natural material that does not require fossil fuels for its existence and can be endlessly recycled without contributing to the overwhelming amount of chemicals, waste and carbon emissions as is the case with synthetic materials.
Not only is wool the ideal choice of material to combat the challenges of climate change but it also offers many practical benefits for consumers. With its natural elasticity wool is a very resilient material. It is also a fantastic insulator, far warmer than its synthetic counter product, even remaining warm when wet. Arguable the most brilliant advantage of wool is that it is naturally odour resistant. When one wears wool the skin is kept dryer due to its ability to absorb moisture, thus preventing odour causing bacteria from growing and proliferating.
One man who is passionately taking up the plight is Prince Charles with his ‘Campaign for Wool’. In an attempt to demonstrate the value of wool over synthetic fibres he conducted an experiment setting fire to each material. As suspected the wool revealed itself to be naturally fire resistant with the garments slowly smouldering and burning out. In a more ominous outcome the synthetic materials revealed themselves to be a serious fire hazard with each item going up in flames with as little as a cigarette being dropped on them.
In a bid to also prove that wool is environmentally friendly the prince also undertook an experiment demonstrating wool's biodegradable capability compared to its synthetic counterpart. Two jumpers were buried in a flowerbed alongside one another, one made of wool and the other made of synthetic material. After four months the garments were dug up revealing the wool jumper rotting into the soil whilst the synthetic one remained largely intact.
Beyond the opulence and beauty of wool the central ethical message is clear. Synthetic fibres are not merely unfavourable practically speaking, but are also a safety hazard and a cause of serious environmental problems. As stated by Vivienne Westwood "In these days when we're threatened by encroaching climate change, wool is a very sustainable fabric… people will not want man-made fibres any more and luxury will be seen in the great, traditional natural fibres.