Prince Charles loves it. Bedouin desert dwellers have been wearing it for centuries. Now, designers from Karl Lagerfeld to Laduma Ngxokolo are finding that wool’s softness and natural insulation properties make it an appealingly tactile material to work with.
Wool is composed of the same protein that makes up the outer protective layer of your skin. It also absorbs and releases water vapour as humidity rises and falls, which is why it works so well as a natural insulator.
One of the country’s oldest agricultural sectors dating back to 1789, the South African wool industry is an important contributor to our GDP whose product is sought after in Europe and the Far East. According to Cape Wools SA, pure-bred Merino sheep are the most prized because they have the highest wool production per head but there is actually little difference in quality.
All of these make the industry worth celebrating, which is exactly what is happening for Wool Week Cape Town at the V&A Waterfront. There are many local crafters and designers funding enterprising ways to use the fibre, many of whom have unveiled new collections at Design Indaba Expo over the years. Here are a few recent applications by South African designers that have caught our eye: