Focus on: South African designers working in wool

It’s Wool Week in Cape Town! We round up five recently launched designs that explore the tactile possibilities of this natural fibre.

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:

Clouds Armchair by Casamento

This one-off chair by the Cape Town studio’s Eve Collett uses three different types of wool fabric in a flouncy but structured homage to the fibre.

Artwork rugs by Paco Pakdoust

The master carpet maker translates various contemporary South African artworks, from landscapes to abstracts, into wool and silk rugs for Southern Guild.

Afri-Garde Neckpieces by Maria Uys

Surface designer and recent graduate Maria Uys created her Ndebele-inspired jewellery in felt because of the abundance of possibilities the medium presents.

Veld Couch and Pebble Stool by Dokter and Misses and Ronel Jordaan

Thisrecent collaboration brings together the hand-felted stone shapes that Jordaan is known for with geometric metalwork by Dokter and Misses.

The Masana Collection by the Kraal Gallery

These rugs are handspun from the fleece of Karakul sheep, the oldest domesticated breed of sheep, and woven on enormous, purpose-built looms.