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Suzy Menkes

Vogue International Editor Suzy Menkes is the best-known fashion journalist in the world. After 25 years commenting on fashion for the International Herald Tribune (rebranded recently as The International New York Times), Suzy Menkes now writes exclusively for Vogue online, covering fashion worldwide.

Why Women Deserve the Cream of Wool

30 Ноября 2015

Loro Piana Record Bale Award 2015. Left to right Peter Ackroyd, of the International Wool Textile Organisation & Woolmark; Mattheu Brisset, Loro Piana CEO; The Record bale prize went to the Australian farm Pyrenees Park in Victoria owned by Pamela and Rob
Loro Piana Record Bale Award 2015. Left to right Peter Ackroyd, of the International Wool Textile Organisation & Woolmark; Mattheu Brisset, Loro Piana CEO; The Record bale prize went to the Australian farm Pyrenees Park in Victoria owned by Pamela and Rob

The soft, white fluff felt like whipped cream, but warmer, cuddly almost.

It was hard to believe that the contents of this little sack had started life on a frolicking lamb in Australia's green meadows - as seen on screen in pictures and films around the walls of Claridge’s hotel in London. 

Unintentionally, my hands had found the essence of the story. This was the finest wool in the world weighing in at 10.3 microns (in comparison to human hair, which is four times as thick at 40 microns). Australia had beaten New Zealand, winning the 2015 Record Bale awarded by Loro Piana, Italian maestros of fashion's wool universe.

из
About 40 made-to-measure suits are made by Loro Piana using the Record Bale which produces about 150 metres.

About 40 made-to-measure suits are made by Loro Piana using the Record Bale which produces about 150 metres.

Australian Farmers Pamela and Robert Sandlant won The Record Bale Prize by producing a bale of wool measuring 10.3 microns.

Australian Farmers Pamela and Robert Sandlant won The Record Bale Prize by producing a bale of wool measuring 10.3 microns.


I listened to Pier Luigi Loro Piana, representing the family brand in which LVMH now owns an 80 per cent stake. And I watched Pamela and Robert Sandlant, the farmers from Australia's Victoria state, receive their gold-plated award.

And I asked myself this question: Why do so few modern women wear tailored wool?

The executive announced that this 150 metres of light-as-air wool in the Record Bale would ultimately produce 40 made-to-measure suits for "true connoisseurs". Then I dared to ask a question: Would any of the recipients of these deliciously light, second-skin suits be… female?

Record Bale prize.
Record Bale prize.

Of course not! Massively expensive bespoke tailoring is aimed at the peacock male - even though Loro Piana has acquired 12-micron wool for a new ready-to-wear line of outerwear, knitwear and scarves named Gift of Kings (NB not Queens).

I remembered looking at the company's womenswear in Milan - super-soft, if rather too formal for my taste. The clothes were in juicy autumnal colours from berry purple through leafy bronze to wine red.

Around the world, cashmere sweaters and scarves in luscious colours are the base of female wardrobes. But wool coats, jackets or suits for women? Why are they just not happening?

Pier Luigi Loro Piana Group Deputy Chairman awarding the prize.
Pier Luigi Loro Piana Group Deputy Chairman awarding the prize.

The ubiquitous down jackets, fur, real or fake, leather, velvet and even feathery effects are the obvious winners on Main Street. Although women may lust for one of those smoothly sculpted Céline coats or Max Mara camel classics, there are so few jackets compared to a decade ago. It's off to work in a padded jacket over a sleek sweater and maybe a fancy skirt.

Who would want to be imprisoned in a tailored jacket behind a desk all day long? Or flying in a plane? Or going out in the evening? It seems like men don't have a problem. But then for the longest time, manufacturers have been working to lighten the male fashion load. I can think back to Gildo Zegna in his days at the Pitti Filati textile fair in Florence, asking me to hold a suit jacket to appreciate its feather weight.

Loro Piana’s “Double” cashmere for spring 2016.
Loro Piana’s “Double” cashmere for spring 2016.

I have seen fashion shows from the Woolmark Company that have proved to me how smart designers can manipulate the cuddly threads into fine fashion. I have even seen Prince Charles - a patron of the campaign for wool - following herds of sheep through London streets.

But I don't buy wool coats or blazers or tailored jackets any longer - although I have thick cardigans, fine cashmere sweaters and a rainbow coalition of scarves.

из
Loro Piana’s “Double” cashmere for spring 2016.

Loro Piana’s “Double” cashmere for spring 2016.

Loro Piana’s “Double” cashmere for spring 2016.

Loro Piana’s “Double” cashmere for spring 2016.


I would like to challenge the woolmakers to create something as easy, as lightweight and as immediately fashionable as a down coat from Moncler or a cheap and cheerful padded jacket from Uniqlo.

If the tailors can get gender-friendly tailoring right, maybe the day will even come when women are fighting with men to have one of those 40 featherlight wool suits made from a record bale.


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