A Future Scented Dream

With a turnover of approximately 450 million euros Italian rustic wool could have a great appeal on the market. This kind of wool is now considered a waste product and a cost but it boasts good technical characteristics and a completely traceable pipeline in Italy
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A future scented dream. This suggestion drove Giampiero Maracchi, advisor with Fondazione Clima e Sostenibilità, to call the challenge of Italian rustic wool and its possible market outlet.

Funded by the CNR’s (National Research Council) Bio-agro food science department in association with Unioncamere Toscana, Fondazione Clima e Sostenibilità and the University of Florence, the project for a “Sustainable Textile Supply Chain” presented a few numbers and opportunities, till now underestimated, for making the most of Tuscan wool: actually, Italian rustic wool not only has a market appeal, but it could generate 450 million Euro sales per year, 27 of which from Sardinian rustic wool made in Tuscany; currently, this type of wool is valued as waste and is not more than a cost to shepherds and the environment as well. Compared with imported wool, its micron title is higher, though with good technical features; its use could be an opportunity to build an entirely traceable supply chain in our country, with an added value for consumers. In order to be appreciated, such a value has to be supported with typically fashion features, e.g. good looking, comfortable, as pointed out by Giusy Bettoni, C.L.A.S.S. (Creativity Lifestyle and Sustainable Synergy).

Generation renewal, innovation, research, recovery of manufacturing supply chains, funding, excellence, synergies, training, the roots and the territory. These are the tags of the presentation conference of the project, held in Florence. Sustainability does not only concern fabrics, as suggested by professor Giampiero Maracchi, that recalled the old tradition of dyeing clothing with the Valtiberina woad, long before indigo blue reached our market.

A sustainable progress and innovation driver

«The FTS – Filiera del Tessile Sostenibile (Sustainable Textile Supply Chain) – project aims at showing how the development of the Tuscany based textile supply chain, using local wool, could be a sustainable progress and innovation driver, in an environment friendly approach that develops a local textile economy», stated Francesca Camilli, Institute of Biometeorology. To enhance her words, at the nearby Palazzo Incontri an exhibition presented about 40 prototypes, made by 17 firms and young designers using rustic wool to make garments, fashion accessories, jewellery and furniture pieces. Not to forget the large number of industry segments where this type of fabric finds an application: from bio-building to agri-textile, from agriculture to photovoltaic systems, vertical gardens, slope holding ropes.

500 tons of Tuscan wool could be converted into 4,000 garments; these are values of an industry in the making, to be developed from craftsmen, giving way to unknown jobs, at that even environmentally sustainable. Patrizia Maggia, Agenzia Lane d’Italia, shares this thought with Antonio Mauro (RS, Research and services) and enhanced the concept pointing out the local identity of this product and the sales opportunity of a local wool brand, combined with skills to transfer the environmental values of such a market. On the other hand, a Cnr-Ceris research showed that sustainability is not a purchase driver; actually, each market niche has got its clients, as demonstrated by the Cavour 11 knitwear company, based in Turin, and the French Arpin: «The example we should follow – states Elena Pagliarino (Cnr-Ceris) – is that of Slow Food, starting from a survey of available machinery to process rustic wool in the region».

Old Fashion Sartoria, founded by Irma Schwegler, started in 2004 with some tests on hand spun and hand woven fabrics to get to invent a “country chic” brand that opened the gate to items like the so called “carabiniere cloth”, “orbace cloth” and “casentino cloth”.

Not only raw materials

Such a product has to face a certain amount of difficulties, considering that apparel should not only be sustainable and innovative; raw materials are not easy to find and the supply chain sustainability should also consider dyes and the territory. According to Lodovico Jucker (Bureau Veritas Italia) the need to design a local brand with a recognized and recognizable certification gets stronger. Troy Nachtigall (IED) illustrates several fibre washing procedures and 3D cotton printing processes that will be available in the near future. All that with the aim of developing an Italian wool business not just for the mattress filling market. «Environmental sustainability – as underlined by Giampiero Maracchi – is as important as economic sustainability. We want to show that sustainable textiles can be a vector of progress, innovation, environment protection, environmental valorisation of the area and of its natural resources, a way to support local craftsmen and to gain satisfied consumers».

During the presentation conference of the project Giampaolo Moscati (Fondazione TEMA) draw the attention of the audience to a lacking interest from the young generation in tasks like cloth cutting, the need of targeted training and of fab labs, like we can see on the international market. However, young people participating showed their intention to get involved and put themselves out there, facing unimaginable challenges. This is it. The Sustainable Textile Supply Chain has not just been imagined, it has been designed and, duly funded, it will hopefully be tested on the market in the near future.