Despite wool being a natural, renewable and biodegradable fiber, apparel and footwear brands could do more to make it part of their overall sustainability strategies. Now, two companies are joining forces in an effort to make wool production more of a reality for many brands.
Fashion production software company SupplyCompass has teamed up with Australian industry wool standards setter The Woolmark Company to offer fashion brands the chance to produce sustainable wool collections and create a guide to help brands launch new categories of wool products.
While SupplyCompass typically enables its network of apparel and homeware brands to generate sustainable collections across different materials including polyester and cotton, the company says the partnership with Woolmark creates an opportunity to offer brands sustainable wool collections for the first time. The Woolmark Company works alongside 60,000 Australian woolgrowers to connect the global apparel and textile supply chain by researching, developing and certifying Australian wool.
Education is a key strategic pillar of the business model employed by The Woolmark Company, which launched its free online learning portal to educate textile supply-chain executives earlier this month. Developed by industry experts, the coursework covers on-farm learnings and the science of the wool fiber, the manufacturing supply chain from early-stage processing through to textile and garment production, textile innovations and in-depth design coursework.
“We’re over the moon to be entering the wool market with the absolute experts, The Woolmark Company,” said Flora Davidson, co-founder of SupplyCompass. “We’ve been wanting to add wool to our supply chain for a while, but knew it had to be done in the right way. This meant working with the right partner as well as getting our platform ready to ensure circularity and sustainable design could be integrated with transparency from the beginning—with the end goal of ensuring all wool garments have a positive impact throughout their entire lifecycle.”
Earlier this month, SupplyCompass introduced another sustainability-building effort in launching a global Deadstock Library in partnership with Queen of Raw. The library will provide a variety of deadstock fabric options to help brands design more sustainable collections, create value from waste and promote circularity.
Brands using SupplyCompass will have immediate access to the manufacturers that work with The Woolmark Company. The production software also claims that users will have total traceability into each product, with access to the full journey from farm to finished goods. By establishing long-lasting supply chains and offering flexible minimums, SupplyCompass aims to empower more brands to produce sustainable wool collections with this versatile natural fiber.
The software helps brands design sustainable collections, source materials, collaborate on sampling, and manage production—all in one place. Through the platform, brands can access the SupplyCompass network of more than 200 trusted manufacturers and work with a dedicated team of production experts.
The phased rollout of wool supply chains will initially see a select number of manufacturer partners available for SupplyCompass users who will be put through a rigorous onboarding process. This process involves a qualifying digital assessment—comprising the factory’s operational setup, labor policies, code of conduct, sustainable practices and environmental initiatives—and a visit to the factory by a member of the specialist team.
SupplyCompass, founded in 2016 and based in the U.K. and India, plans to have a global selection of manufacturers by the end of 2021, including weavers and knitters from India, China and Europe. Most of its network is in India, with some strategically placed partners in Portugal, Nepal, China, and Spain.
And with the help of Woolmark, the SupplyCompass Wool Guide covers the extensive properties of the fiber, different types of wool, the wool production process and the social, animal and environmental impacts of wool.
The guide highlights the considerations for designing a collection with wool, The Woolmark Company’s certification and the latest innovations in wool that are supposed to change the way brands work with the fiber, such as wind and water-resistant wool, wool faux fur and digital printing. The iconic Woolmark logo has been applied to more than 5 billion products since 1964, and is designed to guarantee the quality of the goods being produced.
SupplyCompass has put together various guides that gather expertise across industry bodies and standards, fashion brands, designers, strategists and thought leaders. These guides support fast-growing fashion brands striving to create more sustainable and innovative collections.
Guides have already been written for supply-chain certifications and standards, cotton, leather, leather alternatives, polyester and viscose. Alongside the upcoming Wool Guide, SupplyCompass is also putting together a Logistics in Fashion guide in partnership with freight forwarding company Flexport and a Hemp Material guide, featuring Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO).
Woolmark already offers guides of its own, such as The Wool Lab, a twice-a-year seasonal guide to what it certifies as the best wool fabrics and yarns in the world. The Wool Lab showcases real samples of commercially available fabrics aligned to the season’s macro-themes and is divided into product categories to facilitate and better address the research of fabrics and yarns.