U.K. Bedding Company Woolroom’s Quest for Sustainability

U.K. Bedding Company Woolroom’s Quest for Sustainability

“Do you know how long it takes polyester to decompose?” Chris Tattersall asks.
Tattersall is the owner of Woolroom, the U.K.-based bedding company that makes organic washable wool bedding, including wool-filled pillows, comforters and mattresses.

“Seven hundred years,” he intones.

Tattersall, 54, exudes a deep appreciation, bordering on passion, for the fluffy fleece of the upland ewe and a science wonk’s knowledge of the environmentally sustainable process that renders wool machine washable without shrinkage. During a recent trip to New York, he is ensconced at a corner booth at the downtown Manhattan spa and healing hot spot The Well. A bounty of Woolroom products — a comforter, pillows — swells from the banquette. He unzips a pillow and invites a visitor to plunge their hands into the twice-washed, chlorine Hercosett-treated fleece. It is soft enough for Cinderella’s slumber. And it biodegrades in 60 days.

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Tattersall — who in a Dickensian flourish happens to share a surname with the famed tattersall pattern popular in shirts and waistcoats donned during equine pursuits — hails from four generations of cotton millers. His great-great-grandfather started the family cotton mill in northwest England; his father later sold the business to department store giant John Lewis & Partners. But since 2012, he has been a wool man. That’s when Tattersall became managing director of Woolroom, which at the time was a two-employee operation based in Bradford, the West Yorkshire city once known as the wool capital of the world.  

Back then Woolroom offered washable wool bedding made from the famous British wool, along with various wool accessories (cushions and throws). Tattersall had a vision to expand the company’s distribution routes by focusing solely on bedding. He moved the company to Stamford, an agriculturally rich enclave about 100 miles north of London, in the East Midlands.

At this point in the market trajectory of washable wool, the fiber was evolving from sweaters and socks to underlayers. Smartwool, the outdoor apparel company founded in 1994 by erstwhile Colorado ski instructors Peter and Patty Duke, had a growing customer base of American winter sport enthusiasts convinced of wool’s moisture-wicking prowess.

Tattersall’s goal was to turn wool into the new cotton for the sleep environment. But for all of the advances in textile technology, this still sounded a bit counterintuitive. Even today, the popular perception of wool as hot, itchy, high maintenance and exuding a vaguely funky barnyard odor still lingers. Why would anyone want to sleep on top of it, or under it?  

Tattersall offers numerous reasons. Wool is antimicrobial (since wool naturally manages moisture, there is no wet environment for bacteria to grow), so it’s highly beneficial for people with allergies. It’s self-cleaning (natural proteins in wool, called keratin, kill bacteria and neutralize odor), so it requires fewer washes than other fabrics, thereby conserving water. And counter to popular misconception, wool’s natural moisture-wicking properties work to keep the body cool when we’re perspiring.

Last. year, Woolroom introduced a line of GOTS-certified organic wool bedding, the first washable wool bedding to receive the organization’s seal of approval.

If Tattersall was going to expand Woolroom’s reach beyond England, where wool maintains a storied place in the history of British textiles, he knew he needed to educate consumers.

“The most important thing was the research. I wanted to prove that wool was fantastic for those with allergies, which we did in 2014 whilst working with Allergy U.K.,” he says, referring to the British nonprofit that doles out seals of approval for products safe for allergy sufferers.

In 2016, he enlisted researchers at University of Leeds — England’s renowned textile college — to conduct a study proving that people sleep better under wool than they do under polyester and even down. The Leeds researchers found that wool is 67 percent more effective than down and 43 percent more effective than polyester in allowing moisture to escape while sleeping. In fact, according to the study, the ubiquitous down comforter is actually least effective in “moisture management.”

It’s not just down and polyester. It’s possible that more of us are having a less-than-regenerative night’s sleep because of the rise in memory foam mattresses and polyester bedding stocked at big-box stores. The former were first marketed to improve sleep through better spinal support, but in many cases actually promoted night sweats.

“It’s all about the movement of moisture away from the body and the skin, keeping us at an ambient temperature so that we sleep deeper,” Tattersall says.

The pursuit of sleep, for many people, has long been elusive. But this anxious era has given rise to a multibillion-dollar wellness industry that, in recent years, has spawned a flotilla of supposedly sleep promoting gadgets, lotions, aromas and supplements. By 2017, Tattersall became Woolroom’s majority shareholder and expanded into North America, responding to a demand for what he calls “natural sleep solutions.” (He became the owner of Woolroom in 2019.)

“I think a lot more people now understand the real benefits of sleep,” he continues. “Particularly post-lockdown, we are all really focused on the quality of our life, the quality of our sleep.”

The state of the planet being left to younger generations is also not exactly conducive to a good night’s sleep. As consumers have become more aware of the deleterious effect of chemicals and pesticides not just on their own health, but the health of the planet, the market for ethically sourced and organic products has steadily risen, particularly in America. Woolroom purchases its fleece from small U.K. farms that are tightly regulated according to Britain’s Animal Welfare Act of 2006, which “makes it an offense to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal,” according to its remit. Further, Woolroom only uses wool from farms assured by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“We feel it’s really important to be able to demonstrate to our customers that we know where our wool comes from, we know how those animals have been looked after and the environmental impact that they have,” Tattersall says. “Sheep are bred outdoors all year round. There’s no impact in terms of having to grow crops to feed them because they will just graze on pasture. So the wool grows with natural grass and sunshine as its source. There is nothing more sustainable.”

In 2020, with the pandemic raging, Woolroom introduced a traceable wool program that allows consumers to trace the wool in their products directly to the farm. And last year, Woolroom released a line of organic bedding with the coveted Global Organic Textile Standard accreditation; to date, it’s the only washable wool bedding that has received the GOTS imprimatur.

Fleece is a reliably renewable resource since sheep need to be sheared each spring for their own health and comfort. But making it washable does involve the use of chemicals and water. The industry standard for making wool washable is the chlorine Hercosett process, a chlorine-based shrink proofing treatment invented in the ’50s by the Wool Board in the U.K. This process exposes the fibers to a chlorine solution (much like the water found in a swimming pool), which basically burns away the outside fibers, or hooks, that makes the wool prickly to the touch. Then the material is coated with a polyamide resin that allows the fibers to glide over each other when they are agitated in the washing machine, instead of clumping into a shrunken ball of felt.

Woolroom owner Tattersall feeds a flock of upland ewes.

Woolroom’s wool is processed in Tielt, Belgium. The Benelux countries, with their copious rivers and canals, are ideally situated for the manufacture of washable wool and Belgium, in particular, has been a leader in the technology. According to Tattersall, the plant uses water from the canals to treat the wool, cleaning it before and after the process and releasing the purified water back into the canals. The proprietary for Woolroom’s GOTS-certified washable organic wool bedding differs in that it does not use chlorine. Rather, the fiber is bathed in a tank with water and natural minerals while oxygen is blown through the tank.

Tattersall — a married father of three sons whose wife, Karen, and eldest son, Ed, also work in the business — concedes that Woolroom’s sustainability pedigree may not be the top reason most consumers decide to spring for a $100 wool pillow or a $300 wool comforter. But the textile industry — and fashion brands — are increasingly being called to account for their contributions to a warming planet. (The world generates more than 2 billion tons of waste annually, with the U.S. responsible for 12 percent, or 268 million tons, of that total despite accounting for only 4 percent of the population, according to the nonprofit Environment America.)

“There are mountains of garbage,” says Tattersall, lamenting the iceberg size heaps of waste littering the oceans and the desserts of the Middle East. “It’s depressing.”

Studies have shown that even non-organic wool that is treated with a polyamide resin does not contribute to the scourge of microplastics in the ocean. If this also helps Woolroom’s customers sleep just a little easier, it is tantamount for Tattersall. Of course, he hopes that his customers will keep their Woolroom bedding for many years. But when they do part with their wool pillow — he calls this the “end of life journey” — it will naturally return to the earth.

“I could take my comforter or my pillow, having cut the zip out, and I could put that on a compost heap in the corner of my garden. And in 12 months’ time, I’ll have nitrogen rich compost that I can put on my roses.”

You can’t say that about polyester.

Pakistan Still Assessing Cotton Damage, Road of Recovery Ahead

Pakistan Still Assessing Cotton Damage, Road of Recovery Ahead

Pakistan is underwater, and fashion’s relief efforts are only but trickling in as the losses are surveyed.
But Pakistan remains at a standstill in assessing the losses and damages that have taken lives and livelihoods.

Since record rainfall hit Pakistan in mid-June, at least 1,100 people have died amid the flooding, partly induced by glacial melting and unprecedented rainfall amid the usual monsoon season. With the latest climate-induced disaster, the United Nations said damages have affected at least 33 million people (or one-third of the country), destroying a million homes and leaving many stranded in its wake. In a video message shared Aug. 30, the United Nations secretary general António Guterres called for $160 million in aid to appease the “monsoon on steroids” that Pakistan is faced with.

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And fashion can’t just turn a blind eye.

“The monsoon in Pakistan is not an isolated case — it is for everyone to consider,” Ebru Debbag, executive director of global sales and marketing at Soorty, told WWD. “I feel frustrated that the transformation in our industry is taking far too long and that we are not yet seeing true cause and effect of global actions. I feel a deep urge to alert all global citizens that we are all in this together and need to act together. It is not enough to be solely upset about what has happened — although it is devastating — but we need to act…All of us and right now.” 

Though Debbag said it is too early to assess the true impact of the monsoon on the cotton and the textile sector, he said there will surely be multiple consequences. “What happens in the cotton fields in Pakistan will emerge in fashion stores in Europe or the U.S.” Debbag said the global fashion industry needs to treat Pakistan — one of the top five cotton-growing countries in the world — as an inherent expansion of its existence and “cocreate longer-term alliances.”

Calculating Cotton Losses

In Pakistan, the majority of cotton (a main economic driver) is grown in two regions: Punjab and Sindh. According to the Cotton Crop Assessment Committee, local crop output during the 2021 to 2022 crop season was forecast at 9.37 million bales (with 5.44 million bales for Punjab, which is the main growing region, and 3.5 million bales for Sindh). 

The country’s minister for planning, Ahsan Iqbal, estimated at least 45 percent of cotton crops were destroyed, but cotton growers and ginners are still surveying the damage and fear inaccuracies, which lead to price speculation.

“What happens is most of the damage is along the belt where some of the crops are, some can be salvaged, that is to the extent of the cotton crop,” Munir Mashooqullah, founder of M5 Groupe, one of the largest global apparel suppliers, which includes Synergies Worldwide, told WWD. He warned against incorrect figures and said on-the-ground assessments as of Thursday showed less devastation in the southern region of Punjab compared to Sindh (as satellite images also confirm). Comparable past floods in Pakistan’s Sindh region have chalked up anywhere from 2 million to 2.2 million cotton bales destroyed (or roughly 24 percent less than the current estimated output), per 2011 figures from the Cotton Brokers Association, though this latest monsoon-worsened situation is unprecedented. 

Pakistan bolsters programs like the Better Cotton Initiative. Better Cotton counts hundreds of thousands of licensed farmers in Pakistan, which is the program’s second-largest sourcing partner. Though the cotton organization reported initial losses to the media, the organization retracted earlier inaccurate estimates and told WWD it is still “in the process of gathering feedback from our field staff about the impact” and will share information with stakeholders in the coming weeks. Better Cotton offered words of solidarity to those impacted in the flooding and said it is providing on-the-ground humanitarian support through its Programme Partners.

Reconfiguring Relief for Garment, Textile Workforce

Relief can’t come soon enough, and fashion workers’ rights groups are organizing.

Organizations like the Labor Education Foundation, together with industry watchdog Remake, are raising funds to provide immediate relief to those affected, but garment workers are already facing compounding inequities. 

“At the moment, this is a relief phase where we are trying to rescue people and [address] their needs for food and shelter,” said Khalid Mahmood, director of the Labor Education Foundation. In many cases, people have left flooded areas and are housed in tents. Mahmood stressed their immediate need for medical care to treat developing skin allergies and ward off mosquitoes. Because of the situation, he said, “Yarn will become more expensive. The garment factories will face more difficulty. The effect of that will be directly imposed on workers. Job safety is not [secured] here, although the labor laws talk about ‘secure jobs’ for workers. The workers are going to lose jobs if the employers are facing these kinds of problems, having to import cotton and not having enough orders.” 

Though immediate relief efforts are the priority, Mahmood stressed the need for long-term planning amid an estimated 40 percent price hike due to inflation in Pakistan, including alternative livelihoods for agricultural workers and living wages as a backbone of equitable work. He underscored that living wages are a responsibility for fashion brands contracting in Pakistan, of which there are many.

Nasir Mansoor, general secretary at the National Trade Union in Pakistan (one of the country’s most visible unions wherein very few garment workers are unionized), described how inflation matters across trade. “We have a food crisis, a textile crisis and a cotton crisis. We have to open our borders. We are not only saying that for cotton and our rice, but for daily use items. There is a more than 50 percent price increase in daily use items — potato, chicken. People can’t buy that.” 

Mansoor pointed it back to fashion’s global responsibility, highlighting the growing dissastisfaction among young workers. “Brands are not sympathetic to the workers, they are only thinking about the quality of the merchandise and the timing. They don’t care about what is happening to the workplace. The anger of the workers is growing and growing. In Pakistan, 80 percent of workers are less than 35 years old.”

Amid the ongoing fight for worker justice, Mansoor left a few words of hope. “We are very much optimistic, but we have to tell our friends and comrades the material conditions that exist.”

Lineapelle Digital-Only Edition Shows Potential of Italian Tanneries

Lineapelle Digital-Only Edition Shows Potential of Italian Tanneries

MILAN — When leather trade show Lineapelle announced in February that a physical edition slated for March 23 and 24 had to be moved online in the wake of surging COVID-19 cases in Italy and a slow-paced vaccination campaign, it was hard to predict how much the virtual fair — set up in less than two months — could manage to replace the usual IRL rendition.
Yet organizers were able to transfer the showcase of Italian tanneries by setting up a platform filled with webinars and digital interview-style presentations of the spring 2022 collections from 174 leading companies. The Meet and Match platform aimed at fostering conversations between industry professionals and offering business opportunities was flanked by the 365 Showroom, a marketplace displaying key products from each company along the same lines of what other trade fairs, including Milano Unica, Pitti Connect and Première Vision, have done.

Against the backdrop of a fragile economy and an uncertain landscape, tanneries presented reassuring spring 2022 collections, focusing on tactile and earth-toned hides that exuded a cocooning vibe. Natural shades like tan, chocolate brown and tangerine stood out at the digital fair, with suede and grainy cow or goat hides appearing in the collections of several exhibitors.
The sector as a whole has been underperforming in recent years, impacted by an economic instability that was already casting a shadow on leather sales before the pandemic hit. The appeal of real leather was also undermined by cost-containment measures implemented by mass market players.

Scuppered by the COVID-19 outbreak, 2020 made no exception.
“At the tail end of 2020 we were hopeful enough about the sector, but the first months of this year have already signaled a complex and lackluster outlook for Italian tanneries,” said Fabrizio Nuti, president of Unic, the association gathering the country’s tanneries. “Business is showing a spotty performance and unreasonable increased costs of raw materials, chemical compounds and transportation are worrying in that they might undermine a potential recovery,” he added.
According to preliminary figures provided by Unic in the January to November period last year, the Italian tannery sector is expected to close 2020 with sales down 26 percent compared to a year earlier, signaling a downturn in global consumption of leather products across sectors, with hides destined for fashion decreasing by 30 percent.
Reiterating the resilience and strength of the sector despite the hurdles, Nuti underscored that it’s hard to make predictions for 2021 as the performances of the main sectors the tannery industry serves, including fashion, design and automotive, are still uncertain.
According to the latest Bain & Co. Luxury Study in collaboration with Fondazione Altagamma, the leather goods category is expected to be among the first product categories to see a rebound in 2021, growing 16 percent compared to 2020 and returning this year to pre-pandemic levels, while ready-to-wear and shoes — on track to increase 14 percent — have yet to gain back lost market shares.
WWD surfed the Lineapelle Meet and Match Digital platform looking for the key leather trends for spring 2022.

Thick and textured hides and soft, malleable versions were equally popular at the fair, both exuding a tactile feel. The spring 2022 collection from Tuscany-based Sciarada included the Derma Line, full-grain hides suitable for women’s leather goods, and the Piuma calf option featuring a bigger grain that’s appropriate for men’s items, while the Velvina reversed calf and Satin baby calf were softer options for shoes and handbags.

The Sciarada “Satin” baby calf reverse suede. 
Courtesy of Sciarada.

Over at Conceria Gaiera Giovanni SpA, which was acquired last year by Chanel, Chicca Miramonti, among the company’s owners, explained that the focus for spring 2022 was on exalting the natural qualities of lamb and nappa leather, which was rendered locally in a broad range of colors. The thin Pashmina lambskin looked particularly soft and perfect for rtw pieces and in sync with the season’s mood.
Metal-free hides are becoming a true market standard, as companies continue to invest in sustainability by reducing chemical compounds, especially chrome, employed in the tanning process.
At Conceria Gaiera Giovanni, metal-free options were luxurious, soft and available in similar shades as regular hides, a testament to the company’s efforts in research and development and achievements in color fastness. Miramonti said blending high-tech sustainability with performance without sacrificing the natural look and feel of skins is a challenging process.
Similarly, Sciarada’s chief executive officer Simone Castellani underscored the eight-year research put into the Evolo line of eco-friendly suede. Based on circularity, hides are partly crafted from regenerated suede coming from pre-consumer waste without adding chrome to the production process. Boasting the Bureau Veritas certification, it allowed the company to save 66 percent of previous water consumption, 36 percent of chemicals and halved carbon dioxide emissions, all while requiring 10 production steps instead of the 16 needed for regular suede.
Meanwhile, the Cuoio di Toscana consortium of seven tanneries based in the Tuscany region proved the versatility of their outsole leather tanned with bio-based compounds derived from chestnut and quebracho trees or mimosa flowers for a capsule collection of accessories, including sunglasses, leather goods and shoes, developed in partnership with Milan-based stylist Simone Guidarelli.
Some companies have experimented with innovative and high-tech solutions to enhance leather performances by employing unexpected materials and compounds.
Conceria Nuvolari, a small, Marche-based company with a start-up mind-set, applied innovative treatments to its signature sheep and goatskins. For example, by using a graphene coating, leather boasts scratch-resistant and breathable qualities while achieving a 99.99 percent antibacterial property, a feature that has surged in demand across the entire fashion textile and material sector.

The Nuvolari “Neptune” range of water-resistent leather hides. 
Courtesy of Nuvolari.

Along the same performance-driven lines, it introduced the Neptune range, boasting a tenfold water repellency that makes it perfect for outerwear. Additionally, by leveraging its Nature-L proprietary tanning technique, introduced three years ago, Conceria Nuvolari managed to offer a chrome-free and 80 percent biodegradable leather that was assessed for the LCA certification by the Politecnico di Milano University.
Working a range of doubles, Sicerp combined suede and cowhides with other materials in order to enhance their performances. For instance, the tannery based in the outskirts of Milan employed recycled split suede coming from its own production of stretch leather, combining it recycled Lycra, denim and net, the latter aimed at sneakers and other footwear styles.
See also:
Milano Unica Highlights Key Textile Trends for Spring 2022
Tactile Fabrics, Performance Among Key Trends at Spring 2022 Première Vision Paris
Pitti Filati at Second Digital Test: Getting Better but Still Improvable

MIT Engineers Transform Recycled Plastic Into Self-Cooling Fabrics

MIT Engineers Transform Recycled Plastic Into Self-Cooling Fabrics

Polyethylene may be the underdog in the future of fabrics, according to engineers at MIT — and its recent research proves that the previously underrated material can actually be a wearable textile.
Largely dismissed by the scientific community, polyethylene could now be a star in its own right. Polyethylene is prized for being thin and lightweight — think of plastic wrap and grocery bags — but it was unable to be worn due to its anti-wicking properties. That means that while the material boasts a built-in self-cooling effect that allows heat through rather than trapping it in, concurrently, it was unable to draw away and evaporate moisture, locking in water and sweat.
But now, a team of engineers at MIT, in partnership with international universities and organizations abroad, have spun polyethylene into fibers and yarns that are designed to wick away moisture, and they’ve already woven said yarns into silky, lightweight fabrics that absorb and evaporate water more quickly than common textiles such as cotton, nylon and polyester, MIT said.

And its researchers have estimated that polyethylene fabrics may have a smaller environmental impact over their life cycle than cotton and nylon textiles, which was counterintuitive to most assumptions. In fact, the researchers said their hope is that fabrics made from polyethylene “could provide an incentive to recycle plastic bags and other polyethylene products into wearable textiles, adding to the material’s sustainability.”

Svetlana Boriskina, a research scientist in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, said, “Once someone throws a plastic bag in the ocean, that’s a problem. But those bags could easily be recycled, and if you can make polyethylene into a sneaker or a hoodie, it would make economic sense to pick up these bags and recycle them.”
“Everyone we talked to said polyethylene might keep you cool, but it wouldn’t absorb water and sweat because it rejects water, and because of this, it wouldn’t work as a textile,” Boriskina added.
And now, it’s time to nerd out. MIT explained that a molecule of polyethylene has a “backbone” of carbon atoms, each with a hydrogen atom attached. Its “simple” structure, which is repeated many times over, “forms a Teflon-like architecture that resists sticking to water and other molecules.”
During experimentation, the engineers found that they could take the raw powder form of the material and use standard textile manufacturing equipment to melt and extrude it into thin, spaghetti-like fibers. The material transformed from the process, through oxidation, resulting in a “changed fiber energy” — and they could now attract water molecules to its surface, resulting in weavable fibers made from polyethylene. But making it wearable was another phase of experimentation, which involved modeling the properties of the fibers.

MIT’s polyethylene fabrics. Courtesy of the researchers. 

Through modeling, the engineers found that “fibers of a certain diameter aligned in specific directions throughout the yarn, improved the fibers’ wicking ability” — which meant that they could optimize the material through more testing. Ultimately, they used an industrial loom to weave the yarn into fabrics with more optimized fiber arrangements and dimensions — and through testing found that its wicking ability was superior to that of common textiles.

“In every test, polyethylene fabrics wicked away and evaporated the water faster than other common textiles,” MIT said. And while the researchers observed that polyethylene “lost some of its water-attracting ability with repeated wetting,” they realized that by “simply applying some friction, or exposing it to ultraviolet light, they induced the material to become hydrophilic again.”
Boriskina explained, “You can refresh the material by rubbing it against itself, and that way it maintains its wicking ability. It can continuously and passively pump away moisture.”
But overachievers don’t stop there. The team also found a way to incorporate color into the polyethylene fabrics, which they said had been a challenge “again due to the material’s resistance to binding with other molecules, including traditional inks and dyes.”
Nonetheless, the researchers added colored particles into the powdered polyethylene before extruding the material into fiber form — this resulted in the particles being encapsulated within the fibers, which conveyed color to them.
Boriskina said the researchers didn’t have to plow through the traditional process of dyeing textiles by dunking them in solutions of harsh chemicals. “We can color polyethylene fibers in a completely dry fashion, and at the end of their life cycle, we could melt down, centrifuge, and recover the particles to use again,” which, naturally, contributes to the smaller ecological footprint that polyethylene would have if used to make textiles, the researchers said, in addition to requiring less energy to wash and dry the material compared with cotton or other textiles.
“It doesn’t get dirty because nothing sticks to it,” Boriskina said. “You could wash polyethylene on the cold cycle for 10 minutes, versus washing cotton on the hot cycle for an hour.”
Now the team is exploring ways to incorporate polyethylene fabrics into a variety of uses, such as lightweight, passively cooling athletic apparel, military attire — and maybe even see it in next-generation spacesuits.
For more Business news from WWD, see:
Outerwear Brand Launches Upcycling Campaign
The Great Outdoors Is Having a Moment in Fashion
Field Notes: A Gift Guide for the Outdoorsy

Mantero Sets Up New Exhibition Space for Ken Scott Foundation

Mantero Sets Up New Exhibition Space for Ken Scott Foundation

MILAN — The Mantero Archive has long been considered a comprehensive and extraordinary collection of textiles and an inspiration for numerous designers, with more than 10,000 volumes and 60,000 foulards from the top fashion houses, thousands of drawings and prints. Now it has expanded further, housing the Ken Scott Foundation in Grandate, just outside Como.
Italian silk specialist Mantero, which is based in Como, bought the Ken Scott brand in 2019, and has structured the foundation as an exhibition space. “We are anxious to open it up to the world, once the travel restrictions will be lifted,” said Franco Mantero, chief executive officer of the family-owned company, during a Zoom conference on Tuesday. To be sure, a camera skimming through the space and resting on a Gae Aulenti chair upholstered with a Ken Scott pattern or a set of trunks, joyful paintings and carpets teased viewers to no end.

The Ken Scott Foundation was established in 1989 by the Indiana-born designer, who died in 1991 and became popular in the ’60s and ’70s with his colorful prints.
Mantero, a member of the fourth generation of the family that founded the company in 1902, enthusiastically talked about the more than 6,000 original drawings by Ken Scott, his fabric samples, 1,000 outfits, furniture, documents, and various memorabilia that are on display at the foundation. He marveled at how eclectic and ahead of his times Scott was — even to his own detriment — and related a few tidbits, such as the fact that in addition to Scott’s passion for botany, he opened a restaurant in Milan in 1971.

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Further focusing attention on Ken Scott, Gucci on Feb. 18 will launch a series of activations and a communication strategy highlighting the co-branded collection presented by creative director Alessandro Michele in his Epilogue collection and available in stores now. Last year, Mantero inked an agreement with Gucci for the exclusive use of a selection of patterns from the Ken Scott archives.

A look from the Gucci “Epilogue” Collection with a Ken Scott pattern.  Courtesy Photo

Mantero also revealed that the company has invested in two additional textile archives — a collection of Japanese kimonos previously owned by Nancy Martin Stetson and the Avantgard archives.
Stetson, a university professor, textile expert and researcher, lived in Japan for 20 years, collecting 763 kimonos from the Meiji (1878 to 1912) and Taisho (1912 to 1926) periods as well as from the first 20 years of the Showa (1926 to 1945) era.
Mantero praised Stetson for her ability to structure the collection. “She was a true academic, carefully creating and organizing a catalogue.” He noted how the prints on the kimonos, from cherry blossoms to fish or the cricket, are “cultural symbols and very instructive for our sector, they are not only ornamental, they have meaning.”
The collection also includes garments worn under the kimono (Nagajuban), jackets (Haori), 70 obi and around 500 fabrics, “with an extraordinary combination of colors and decors, realized in the Kasuri, Shibori, Itajime, Tsutsugaki or Ikat techniques, to name a few,” continued Mantero.

Mantero explained the value of the Avantgard archives, founded in 1975 in Como by Fabrizio Navarra, who was among the first to use digital technology applied to traditional drawings.
The archive comprises around 270,000 digital drawings, 50,000 printed fabrics, 5,000 photographic books and 3,000 drawings, to name a few. “This is an exceptional starting point for any designer or fashion house,” enthused Mantero.

A sample of Avantgard sketches.  courtesy image

He declined to reveal the amount invested in the expansion of the archives. In 2019, the most recent figures available, the company generated revenues of 97 million euros, up 10 percent compared to 2018.

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