So far, we have discussed traditional winter fabrics like tweed, flannel or alpaca. Let's take a look at the fibers commonly used in the production of our everyday clothing, including tailor-made suits. We will be talking about merino wool that comes from the largest and oldest sheep species in the world.
The beginnings of breeding these sheep go back to the 12th century and are located in the Iberian Peninsula. For centuries, the Spaniards monopolized the breeding and the export of live sheep from the peninsula was severely punished. Only in the 18th century, thanks to the family connections of the rulers of England and Spain, the first exchanges of this living commodity took place, and so merino sheep first appeared in Great Britain, and then in its distant colonies, including Australia. This continent soon became home to millions of sheep and their breeding and sale of wool greatly influenced the economic development of Australia over the last two centuries. Merino sheep also made their home in New Zealand, at the foot of the Southern Alps. They quickly adapted to the harsh conditions in these areas. Extremely strong wind and huge temperature fluctuations forced the sheep to develop a fleece, warming their bodies during the cold winter and cooling and regulating the body temperature in hot summer.
Merino fleece, which is distinguished by its extraordinary density, provides this extraordinary strength. The secret of its effectiveness, however, lies in the thinness of a single fiber. The fibers are flexible and the wool obtained from them is delicate, pleasant to the touch and does not scratch the skin. It protects our body just like it protects sheep - it acts as a thermoregulator. It also has moisture-wicking abilities which means it can absorb and filter out moisture. Merino wool is also valued for its ability to eliminate unpleasant odors, flexibility and airiness.
We distinguish different thicknesses of wool fibers and depending on them, the wool will have a different purpose. In tailor-made clothes, fine and superfine wool ranging from 19 to 11.5 microns works best. The thinner the fiber is, the more delicate and shiny the fabric will be. With the decreasing thickness of the fiber, its price also increases, because it can only be obtained from the most noble animals and the production process is extremely difficult. The production of such wool means that the animal is reared at every stage to ensure uncontaminated wool. That is why famous houses like Kiton and Loro Piana produce very small amounts of fabrics per year, whose fibers measure from 11.5 to 13 microns. An example of Loro Piana’s collection composed of superfine wool of 13.5 in diameter is the “Super200” Merino wool.
Among the Merino wool, the Pecora NeraⓇ is worth mentioning. As the name suggests, it is obtained from black sheep, a natural color centuries ago, and today replaced by the dominant white genes. In collaboration with a visionary breeder from New Zealand, Loro Piana recreated the black color of merino sheep by selective breeding and crossing only the animals with the particular genetic heritage. Thanks to this, the Pecora NeraⓇ collection was created, presenting fabrics made of non-dyed fibers and being a tribute to nature.