Merino Wool: Why we use it at Pavepara
Posted on May 12 2016
Do you remember that wool sweater you had as a kid? You know, the one your mom would pull over your head on a cold day. You couldn't wait to get out of her sight, tear it off, and stuff it deeply into your backpack in hopes it would never resurface again. I certainly remember, it was light pink with little yellow rosebuds embroidered around the collar. Thinking about it as I write this entry I shudder and squirm with phantom scratching on my neck and wrists.
Fast forward to today, I am a complete wool convert! I chose early on to go with merino wool as the primary textile for Pavepara for a couple of reasons. The first, and the most important reason, merino wool is sustainable and biodegradable. Merino wool comes from sheep that live in the highlands of New Zealand and Australia. The environment in these regions produce a wool fibre that is specific to merino sheep. The coat of these sheep never stops growing. In fact, they must be shorn at least once a year to keep them from being uncomfortable.
When I began the career shift from wellness mentor to clothing designer, I sought out to learn as much as I could from sketching, to pattern making and textiles, to the internal workings of the industry that fuels it. One by one, I began turning over stones, some of them boulders, and educating myself about the business as a whole and all of its moving parts (so many moving parts). I will save you the long story, but I will say this in short; coming from an educational background in conservation and having a compassionate understanding for wilderness preservation, I was shocked to find out just how dirty the textile and clothing industry is. How on earth could I not know this? People, myself included at the time, are willing to turn the other cheek when it comes to what they pull over theirs. I remember having a conversation with one of my very socially and environmentally knowledgeable friends about the perils of the clothing industry, and the even worse practices in the textile industry. I will never forget what she said,
"I don't think people want to hear anything negative about their clothing choices. When they know about something that elicits empathy for others and the environment, they are forced to make a choice that causes them to potentially feel guilty about something that is confidence driven, shopping"..
She pretty much nailed it, and she is right. Clothing that is made with consideration for social and environmental impacts carries a higher price tag. Consumers love 'fast fashion' because the price point is well, nice. The immediate satisfaction of picturing yourself in your new $5.99 T-shirt from H&M with your dark wash, distressed skinnies from the Gap momentarily provides 'shopping endorphins' of sexy self love and gratitude. Besides, you worked hard all week, you deserve that new T-shirt, its only $5.99 anyway, even if you only wear it once, you will still get your money’s worth, right? Wrong! I am sorry, but Wrong. Wrong on so many levels.
So, that is the first reason I went with Merino Wool, it is Sustainable in a world of very unholy textile practices. For now, it is a textile I can stand behind. When I am asked why I did not go with Organic Cotton or Bamboo, the answer is this; they both take a intolerable amount of resources to produce. Approximately 25% of the worlds pesticides and water resources are used in the production of cotton, due in part to where it is grown. Organic cotton is better, but it is still not great. Bamboo is yes, a sustainable material, but turning bamboo into fabric isn't possible without a highly intensive chemical process, where approximately 13 different toxic solvents are used.
If I didn't sell you on wool with those scathing facts, here are a few more wool focused positives that will sway you; the natural chemical lanolin that is produced by sheep and passed on to the fiber is naturally antimicrobial, and the breathability of merino is superior to every other natural fiber including cotton, making it a wonderful choice for every season.
Merino wool is soft against your skin unlike that traumatizing childhood sweater. My skin is extremely sensitive and I love the super fine Merino Jersey that we are currently using. I wear it everyday, even in the summer, not just because it is my label, because I love the way it feels and looks.
Now, you might ask why I also use silk for detailing and trims? Silk is the strongest natural fiber known to man, and highly moisture absorbent with the ability to hold up to 1/3 of its weight without feeling damp. Strategically silk is placed into some my designs for ventilation, and some of them simply for a pop of color. Despite silks position in the world of luxury, silk is an unsung hero in the world of fitness apparel and casual lifestyle clothing. My goal is to one day mill our own textile comprised of merino wool and silk, and that day is coming very soon.
Everyday we make choices that impact the future of this planet, both socially and environmentally. The low price of 'cheap' apparel is tempting, I get it, I am guilty of it, we all are. But the cost is high on the planet and the tough working conditions of people who produce them. Know that when you buy Pavepara, you are investing in a brand that has a whole lot of heart. Our products are produced with consideration to the social impacts of the industry, made in the USA by people who make a living wage. Each piece is thoughtfully designed for movement from the trail to a dinner date. We want you to feel great in Pavepara because you made a choice to be part of a movement that supports social change and integrity for the environment, and because you look and feel confident in our clothes more than once.
As Pavepara grows as a brand I want you to know that your voice is an important one, I care about what you have to say, and have left this blog post open for comments. We welcome you to share your thoughts, ideas, and feedback!
Fly High in Pavepara
2% of Profits for the birds
Pavepara Owner/ Lead Designer