Designers Leading the Way

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By Roxy L. Rowton

Part II of the Wool Series examines the fashion talents around the world who are calling attention to the beauty and functionality of this indispensable fiber. These are a sampling of fashion designers and brands leading the way to encapsulate the inherent benefits of styling in wool.

A growing number of designers and brands are committing to adopting design and manufacturing practices to clean up the negative impacts of the fashion industry.  As such, they are championing wool’s eco-credentials. Wool gives consumers an alternative approach to refreshing their wardrobes with garments fashioned from wool that wear more but wash less and provide climate control and comfort.


A lifestyle brand (the creation of surf legend Kelly Slater and designer John Moore), Outerknown has introduced a board-short fabricated from 100 percent Merino Wool. The “Woolaroo,” the name of the board-short, pays homage to an era when a board-short was standard surfing apparel and fabricated from a dense twill fabric. With the latest innovations in fibers and manufacturing techniques, a water resistant textile fabricated from merino wool can now “ride the waves.


This activewear brand  joins a new generation of apparel brands working towards changing the fashion industry’s values on consumption and profit. Nagnata’s focus is on “sustainably minded design.” The brand integrates new ground-breaking textiles with sustainable manufacturing and directional design. Rather than cranking out seasonal fashion collections, the brand’s designers create trans-seasonal knitwear for yoga, pilates, dance, as well as a transitional wardrobe for studio-to-street style. Nagnata collaborated with The Woolmark Company to develop a superfine, high performance merino wool fabrication by utilizing circular knitting needles. The seamless knitwear collection is designed with minimal seams and blends merino wool with Tencel for breathability, moisture absorption, and comfortability.


An artisan-driven brand.  For Spring 2020, Lemlem has created an eight-piece travel capsule from merino wool that was hand-woven in Ethiopia. Women are at the core of Lemlem. The brand is focused on the expansion of production and employment of women all across the African continent. Lemlem was founded by renowned supermodel Liya Kebede. (Her resume also includes actress, designer and maternal health advocate.) She wants to encourage the fashion industry to look to Africa as a source of high-quality craftsmanship. Lemlem partnered with the Woolmark Company of Australia –  herdsman Zegna Baruffa Lane Bourgosesia of Italy— to spin the wool into luxurious yarns and the Muya Atelier of Ethiopia  — to weave the yarns into garments. Each garment of the travel capsule includes a NFC chip to allow the consumer to trace the garment from the herdsman in Australia to the spinner in Italy and to the artisan weaver in Ethiopia.

Phillip Lim:

American Fashion Designer Phillip Lim has positioned his brand to reduce the use of synthetic fibers by 22 percent. Wool is an integral fiber of Phillips Lim’s sustainability mission. The Fall 2019 collection sourced 73 percent of the fibers from wool. In collaboration with the Woolmark Company, a Wool Sherpa Fabric was developed as a replacement to fur in the cold-weather collection. The cold-weather collection included a Wool Denim fabric to offset the harmful environmental effects of standard denim garments.  Phillip Lim’s 28-piece collection offers an assorted range of garments constructed from wool sherpa and wool denim to maximize wool’s inherent benefits of superior warmth, breathability, odor resistance and comfort.

Gabriela Hearst:

Uruguay-born fashion designer Gabriela Hearst is one more fashion designer championing wool fibers for a new generation of consumers. Long-term and sustainability are the two values she has adopted from operating a fully functional ranch. She has applied these values to running her fashion brand. The wool used in her spring 2018 collection was sourced from the sheep on her ranch. She was awarded the International Woolmark Prize for her 2018 collection. She is committed to sourcing wool in her seasonal collections.

Private White V.C.:

Menswear Lifestyle Brand Private White V.C. is the last remaining clothing factory from the world’s first industrial city, Manchester, or “Cottonopolis.”  The brand continues to operate from the very same brick-red building on the banks of the Irwell River. Private White V.C. has made apparel for kings and queens, for prime ministers and presidents and for musicians and actors. In 1916, it furnished the Allied Forces with cotton gabardine trench coats. In 1940 the brand was commissioned by Ministry of Defense to supply the RAF with waterproof parkas. While most brands rely on feathers in down coats and jackets, Private White V.C has developed an ideal alternative fiber — wool. The wool is sourced locally from Creative Director Nick Ashley;s farm. The brand’s mill partner weaves the wool into sheets ready for use as an insulator in Private White V.C. outerwear collection. The wool wadding system of the outerwear collection keeps the wearer comfortable in cold to below zero temperatures. As a fully renewable and biodegradable fiber, the wool wadding system is thermostatic, making it the ultimate in cold-weather protection.

Roxy L. Rowton has spent three decades assisting women transform their wardrobe from a random assortment of garments into a curated collection of functionality and individuality. She shares her expertise on the Fashion Files at Prince William Living and “build a better wardrobe” blog at


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