Concept III Textiles is forecasting a hefty 30 percent increase in the use of Merinos and Merino blend fibers in 2014 as hunting and golf brands adopt the wool product pioneered by such outdoor brands as SmartWool, Ibex Outdoor Clothing and Icebreaker.
“We are seeing a tremendous interest in fine-micron Merino wool particularly in golf, hunting and outdoor,” said Chris Parkes, national sales manager for Concept III, which developd, sourcrd and produces fabric-based finished products worldwide for the active sports and outdoor markets. “While all embrace Merino for its established performance qualities, he says there are more factors driving the fiber’s popularity in each of those markets.
Concept III helps develop and represents Australia- and New Zealand-based Charles Parsons’ Merino State brand of fine micron Merinos. Recently Merino State and Concept III introduced a dozen new Merino blends with new performance and aesthetic qualities.
“While Merino is all season, thermal-regulating, antimicrobial, moisture-wicking, water-repellent, durable, insulative, biodegradable, breathable, comfortable and more, it’s also prized by the golf market for its look and hand and the way it styles,” says Parkes. “Merino has always been a prestigious fiber. It lends sophistication, quality and appeal to upscale lines and is well-suited to golf.”
Hunting and other variable exertion activities that have bursts of activity and periods of inactivity are also adding Merino to their first-layer product offerings. While synthetic fibers wick, when overly wet they can pool and chill the body. “Under the same circumstances, Merino and blends are more breathable and don’t hold on to water a feature being touted by the hunting world,” says Parkes.
For outdoor, the simple fact that Merino is a biodegradable, sustainable fiber is becoming the major plus. Everyone in that market is well aware of the many attributes of Merino, but the green factor is becoming more and more important every season to both brands and consumers.
Parkes credits the big Merino-driven brands such as SmartWool for educating the consumer about its soft, itchless, performance benefits and propelling sales. He also reports that the leading apparel brands are only looking for the high quality Merinos. “They realize that if you want to be a player, you need high quality because that’s what the consumer is reacting to,” he says.