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Women's fashion drives Australian wool demand in China

Women's fashion drives Australian wool demand in China article image

Women’s fashion wear, particularly Chinese women’s coats, would continue to drive demand for Australian Merino wool in the short term, a leading wool economist predicts.

Addressing a recent forum for wool classers and woolgrowers at Northam in Western Australia, Chris Wilcox, said woollen women’s jackets are the “next big thing” in China.

Mr Wilcox is executive director of the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia and chairman of the Market Intelligence Committee of the International Wool Textile Industry.

“Women’s fashion coats are driving demand for wool, particularly from China and particularly for Merino cardings and broader wools, and also interior textiles – they are using wools up to 36 micron for this,” said Mr Wilcox, keynote speaker at the Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) forum.

The wool fashion coats are made from a double-faced woollen fabric and generally feature contrasting coloured lapels and lining. Coats are made from shorter staple-length broader micron wools.

“Knitwear is also doing very well,” Mr Wilcox said.

“There is an expectation of continued strong sales of wool for women’s clothing lines in the short term, particularly if there’s a colder than normal northern hemisphere winter this year.”

Demand can ‘pop out of nowhere’

Mr Wilcox’s comments were backed by Peter Scanlan Wools buyer, Steve Noa who gave a buyer’s perspective to the forum.

“The biggest problem for the industry is that demand for a certain type of wool can pop up out of nowhere,” Mr Noa said.

“Eighteen months ago I was in China in winter and everybody was wearing those puffy jackets – yellow, pink – I thought ‘we’re stuffed’.

“But now, this fantastic double-sided fabric has come along and we’re having trouble filling orders.

“I’m struggling to buy a couple of containers of 21 micron wool in WA.

“We’re hoping it’ll be a cold winter in China and they’ll continue buying.

“The prestige of being seen in a quality wool product is part of the marketing story there.”

Optimistic about the future

Both Mr Wilcox and Mr Noa said New Zealand had “stolen a march” on Australia in wool marketing by creating its popular Icebreaker range of men’s and women’s winter sport and leisure knitwear blend using 18-18.5 micron NZ Merino wool.

“We have nothing like that,” Mr Noa said.

But Mr Wilcox was optimistic about the future of Australian finer-micron and superfine wools.

He agreed wool’s future was in quality – and with China – which takes 90pc of the Australian clip.

“Wool can’t compete with synthetics on quantity, but it can on quality,” he said.

Mr Wilcox predicted volatility in demand for wool in the medium term due to world economic factors, including Greece and China, and difficult-to-predict demand driven by fashion trends.

He saw China, India and Turkey as the main opportunities for woolgrowers. 

Source: Farm Weekly

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