Loro Piana: the world’s most majestic wool
Lord Piana: the world’s most majestic wool
Noted for their soft wool coats, Merino sheep are everywhere in Australia and New Zealand, and they account for more than 50% of the world's sheep population. The thing that sets Australian/Kiwi Merino apart from wool produced in northern climates is its superfine quality, however not all Merinos are superfine.
To qualify as superfine, the wool fibres need to be 19.5 microns or less – a micron being a thousandth of a millimetre (the average human hair is about 60 to 70 microns). In short, the smaller the fibre, the softer and more comfortable it is against the skin, hence the allure for luxury brands. While Australia is home to around 75 million sheep, only 18 million produce wool finer than 19 microns. In New Zealand, there are 32 million sheep, but only a modest 2.2 million of them yield fibre under 21 microns.
One of the foremost names in superfine Merino is Loro Piana, and the luxury Italian brand has developed its own ultra soft, ultra fine wool which carries the label's suitably luxurious-sounding trademark: 'The Gift of Kings'.
This wool is officially the finest wool in the world at only 12 microns in diameter. Don't be misled though: this fabric may be spun super fine, but it's capable of strength and impressive weather-beating qualities. Loro Piana's collection crafted from the Gift of Kings wool includes prerequisite creamy soft knitwear pieces as well as more surprising outerwear items including padded jackets coated with another impressive innovation: the brand's proprietary "Rain System" treatment which protects wool from the effects of a downpour.
Merino wool has the unique asset of keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. And The Gift of Kings is - as its name suggests – a very rare thing indeed, although you don't have to be Royalty to desire it. It is available in extremely limited quantities - around 2,000 kilos a year compared to the 500 million kilos of fibre auctioned annually in Australia and New Zealand. Loro Piana works with a small number of specialist breeders to farm the animals, which helps to sustain a higher grade of wool and thus support a more craft-like approach to production as a whole – something of a dying tradition in the Antipodes.
At the Art Basel contemporary art event this year, the label presented an immersive pod-like structure where vistors were able to enjoy cloud-like and ethereal constructs all made of the special wool.
In this world of plenty, where mass-produced, throwaway fabric is so readily available and high-quality textiles so very rare, it's reassuring to know that Loro Piana continues its work, while also supporting highly skilled workers and farmers, who are sadly a dying breed.