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Patagonia Blends Recycled Wool into New ‘Woolyester’ Fleece

Patagonia is kicking off fall with a new material derived from equal parts polyester and recycled wool, plus a hint of nylon.

Touted by the outdoor-brand as an “evolution of fleece,” the so-called “woolyester” dries quickly, manages moisture and feels soft to the touch, keeping its wearer warm and comfortable across a range of weather conditions.

Current woolyester-clad styles include a $139 pullover and a $159 jacket in both men’s and women’s cuts. The pieces are available in a slew of earthy neutrals with names like “oatmeal heather,” “forge gray” and “Mojave khaki.”

Each Fair Trade Certified–sewn design, Patagonia notes, pairs heritage design lines from its traditional fleece patterns with the “future of recycled fabric brands,” ensuring that the fleece will soon become an “instant classic.”

In a post on its website, Patagonia admitted that all the materials it uses, including wool, have an environmental cost. Wool production, for instance, requires vast tracts of land just to graze sheep, along with no small amount of energy, water and chemicals to turn shorn fleece into clean fiber and finally into dyed wool products.

One way to roll back the impact of wool production, Patagonia asserted, is by recycling used wool.

“The practice of recycling wool dates back hundreds of years,” Patagonia wrote. “After wool sweaters had been worn threadbare, they were collected and shredded into individual fibers and then converted into blankets.”

The company’s recycled wool, it said, stems from “this same process,” albeit with modern-day quality controls that sort wool fibers by color before they’re shredded.

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“By selecting and blending colors of dyed wool fabrics and garments, we can completely eliminate the dyeing process, saving water and chemicals and eliminating the resulting wastewater,” Patagonia added.

The brand’s woolyester items are made at Vietnam’s V.T. Garment Co., a Fair Labor Association Participating Supplier that is said to promote worker health and safety through its own rigorous social-compliance program.

On top of their wages, workers who sew Fair Trade Certified items receive an additional premium from Patagonia that they themselves decide how they’d like to spend, whether it’s on education for their children or healthcare. If they prefer cash payouts, that’s possible, too. 

To divert waste from landfills, V.T. Garment Co. runs a recycling competition on its premises. “Employees in each section work as a team to appropriately sort their waste and maximize the cash award they receive for recycling materials,” Patagonia said.