Britain’s wool industry has seen signs of a revival in the demand for natural fibres amongst fashion houses and clothing manufacturers.Representatives of the British Wool Marketing Board have just returned from the Pitti Filati show in Italy, where their display concentrated on natural, undyed yarns from unique British sheep breeds. Apparel yarn spinners are promoting the ecological benefits of fleece wool as a natural, biodegradable and renewable fibre.Undyed speciality yarns on show in Italy included fibres from the Bluefaced Leicester, the centuries old Jacob and the Shetland, which is proving particularly popular at the moment. “Shetland is an excellent fibre in terms of handle. It’s also proving popular because of the renewed interest in traditional breeds,” said John Fox, who was a member of the British Wool Marketing Board’s marketing team at the Italian show.Demand for Shetland is particularly strong in the Far East and America, where the market for traditional British products is buoyant. “There does seem to be a move towards natural fibres, natural products and natural colours. There is an interest in wool from traditional British breeds and the Shetland story is a particularly good one at the moment,” said John Fox.An interest in the traditional is also reflected in what is seen as strong potential for knitwear. Fishermen’s ganzies featured prominently in at least one display at Pitti Filati. The BWMB has taken encouragement from this. The ganzies were traditionally made by farmers’ wives from natural wool.”They do fit in with the general trend we are seeing. People are looking for natural products and they are looking for added value. They want to differentiate themselves from other things on the market and I think that the opportunities for wool are there to be grasped,” said John Fox. “I am sure the industry will pick up on them.”

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