DOWN UNDER RESEARCH
Fast-forward. We’re in an old 4×4 in rural Australia, bouncing down the dirt road to a Merino wool sheep farm. Our first stop in our journey to understand wool at the deepest level. Freshly cut grass and sheep shit attack our sense of smell. Mr. Marius Cuming of the Woolmark Company is at the wheel. Marius is tall, always smiling, larger than life, speaks in a rich Aussie accent, and is taking us around the countryside to teach us everything about the exact Merino wool that Unbound Merino will use on this project. Our first stop is meeting the experts who grade the wool on the sheep out in the field. Right here, these experts decide which sheep have the very best wool who then will pass along their genetics onto the next generation of Merino sheep via selective breeding. The better the living sheep’s wool, the better chances it will have to be selected to pass on its DNA to make Merino wool for generations to come.
Then, onto the fun part: step two. We pull into another farm, a herding dog chasing alongside the truck down the long road ending at a simple wooden workshed. Inside, a flurry of activity. Seasoned sheep-shearing veterans are skillfully and humanely trimming the wool from these sheep. Watching these experts work was like watching a form of ballet, each position seamlessly transitioning to the next, keeping the sheep in a comfortable and safe position. They toss each respective wool pelt into a graded bin, with the superfine Merino being the top tier, the stuff Unbound Merino uses.
Next, we head to the Elders Wool auction house. Shockingly enough, when we arrived at the warehouse in the suburbs of Melbourne, we were greeted by an employee who happens to be an avid reader and fan of Carryology, Samantha Wan. Small world. She and Marius walked us through endless aisles of wool of various qualities all graded and ready to ship. And then we got to witness the live bidding on bins of wool. Basically think of one of those fast-talking auctioneers, but with an Australian accent. Representatives bid fiercely, all purchasing wool which is destined to become quality products around the world.
And finally, we’re at a high-tech facility where this magical wool is turned into ultrafine fibers and then knit into fabric for clothing. This facility is used by some of the biggest names in the outdoor gear industry and they are no strangers to creating high-performance fabrics for extremely demanding users. While ultrafine Merino wool knit fabric is incredible and this was fascinating to see… we knew we were going to throw a small wrench into this process and do something different.
As the day came to an end, we pulled up to our Airbnb in Melbourne, and right there on the street, Marius recited an incredible spoken performance of The Man Of Ironbark. He had been practicing this for weeks, recalling every word from memory. Something I will never forget.
And finally, we even recorded a podcast together with Marius and were featured in their magazine called Beyond The Bale.
Who knew nerding out on wool could be so fun?
Okay. So we knew every step of the process. We selected the very best ultrafine Merino wool on earth. And we’re back to the beginning question… how do we make a Merino wool t-shirt better?
Well, hands-on real-world Merino wool experience and a dash of insanity.