The wool industry looking for a big break in the outdoor recreation clothing market is likely to get success due to the technology originally developed to make fine wool finer.
The Optim technology behind the new fabric was originally developed more than 20 years ago when the world was desperate for more fine wool, prompting the then UK-based International Wool Secretariat (IWS) and various textile processors to look at stretching woollen fibres in the early processing stage.
According to the Woolmark Company's product development and commercialisation general manager Jimmy Jackson, the Optim machinery effectively reduced the fibre diameter by about three microns, bringing 19-micron combed wool tops down to a superfine 16 microns, or a 14-micron rope of fibre to almost 12 microns.
Even better, at the height of the global glut in broader wool types, Optim made it possible to 'fine up' the typical 22- to 23-micron Australian clip fleece, giving it much more versatility in the global fashion market.
Fashion industry responding to trials of the new wind and water resistant fabric indicate plenty of promise in clothing market segments such as recreational sailing, fishing, bushwalking or hiking and golf.
Fashion industry and retailers will start assessing the new Optim-based product from next month.
The wool product's soft and natural fibre attributes could generate a new level of market interest for its use in garments like street-wear jackets and pants.
The fabric is lightweight, with the soft handling feel of wool, but contains far more fibres per centimetre than conventional woven woollen cloth, giving it the sort of dense weather-protective qualities suited for outdoor wear.
Wool marketers foresee genuine interest and spill-over orders from the booming smart-casual clothing scene.
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