Suit company Theory has just launched Good Wool, a fabric made from Australian merino wool and then woven in an Italian mill that has been standing for a century, but which employs modern energy-saving technology. According to Fast Company, Theory’s head of product development, Wendy Waugh, was tasked with researching farmers, mills and sewing factories all over the world. Every aspect of their suits made with Good Wool also incorporate biodegradable lining and use recycled buttons in an effort to make them as sustainable as possible. The clothes amount to the same as other Theory products. For example, pants average at $275, blazers at $395, and dresses at $325.
Andrew Rosen, founder and CEO of Theory, told FC that he wanted to use the company's 20th anniversary as an occasion to pick a new direction, rather than dwelling in the past. “I didn’t want to celebrate our 20 years,” Rosen said. “I wanted to start over and think about our next 20 years. If we don’t worry about the fate of our universe, I won’t have people to clothe."
The wool is raised on the Beaufront Farm in Tasmania by the von Bibra family, who are fourth-generation sheep farmers. Their herd is free-roaming and owners Julian and Annabel von Bibra work with the Bush Heritage and Tasmanian Land Conservancy to support environmental stewardship in partnership and ethical production on their land. They also train others in aspects of animal welfare and care.
"He cares about preserving the land, because it’s his home,” Waugh said, of Julian von Bibra. “He also has a program where he teaches shearers how to shear the sheep so it doesn’t harm them.” Waugh also explained that most fabric production companies don't actually know where the wool is grown, as the stuff tends to be bought by a middleman, bundled together, and then distributed. It's rare for a clothing company to know the conditions the sheep growing wool are living in.
From there, wool is brought to a mill in Biella, which is located in the foothills of the Italian Alps. The mill produces its own electricity with hydro turbines and solar panels. It also uses local water to dye and process their wool, making quality textiles in bright, jewel colors for Theory. The quality of the wool made in this style is higher than either Waugh or Rosen have seen, which means a more durable product. “This means that our suits are long-lasting, which makes them inherently sustainable,” Waugh said. “It is something that a man or woman can wear for years, which means reducing unnecessary consumption.”
Rosen says that Theory had a very complicated production system for most of its products, and is trying to streamline them with Good Wool as an experiment. “The truth is, if we were starting from scratch, it would be easier to do everything this way,” he said. Theory isn't just setting an example for their own future, but for clothing manufacturers who are just getting started.