Merino wool trends at Première Vision Paris

23 September 2015

At one of the world’s most influential trade fairs, Première Vision Paris, Janet Prescott explores the dominance of Merino wool for the upcoming Winter 2016/17 season and the rise in the androgynous trend.

Première Vision Paris confirmed the strong showing of wool in fashion trends for Winter 2016/17. There was an emphasis on colourful tweeds, flannels and plaids. The limelight included quirky approaches to traditional suitings in Superfine Merino wool for both women and men.

Business was brisk in most cases; those exhibitor’s stands that had a strong design element and story to tell were crowded, showing the importance of marketing within the trade as well as to the end consumer. So-called bespoke fabrics are presently of great importance in the suiting trade where customers often consult with the mills to provide a targeted and sometimes unique product. Many companies emphasise the growing importance of designing with their customers, because unique features are very important to them. At the same time, mills are keen to keep their own identity and put a great deal of effort into a handwriting which can be traced from season to season using information such as that provided by The Wool Lab.

The word luxury occurred frequently such as Superfine Merino wool in lightweight worsteds at 180 or 200gms, with blends of smaller amounts of silk, vicuna, cashmere or alpaca, all quality ingredients which lend an aura of exclusivity. Leading the field were micro-patterns, dots and checks for  dark navy or black suitings, as well as solid colours with textural interest.

An emerging trend, forecast by The Wool Lab, is the merchandising of high-end men’s suitings for womenswear as buyers seek out high quality and sophisticated styling, a fact mentioned by Dominic Dormeuil of Dormeuil and backed up by many other companies which are used to cater exclusively for the menswear trade. Clearly a trend to watch.

 A move towards thicker, more substantial yarns was noted, but soft finishes and smooth surfaces are still appreciated. Many designs did not shy away from the natural hairiness achieved from blending with mohair or other animal hairs and sometimes a more robust, handle like Harris Tweed and other British tweeds are also sought. Womenswear tweeds showed a real complexity of design and attractive bobbles, stitches and decoration.

Jacketings are an area of real innovation, with wool, wool/cashmere and lambswool major ingredients. Tweedy looks sported colourful grounds in nut brown and orange, often with a windowpane check on a darker ground with brightly coloured checks, Donegal and other flecked effects, also soft beige and light brown checks and classic designs. Deeper reds and russets gave a jewel tone. Textures were made more cosy by twisting yarns, brushing and finishing techniques to maximise the surfaces of fabrics. Geometrics and regular herringbones, dogstooths and sporting checks were mixed and made slightly irregular to surprise. They were broken up by overlaid patterns and coloured with unexpected touches like pink or lilac, bright blue, turquoise and ginger.  

Luxury wool for knitwear is softer, thicker and more substantial but remains lightweight. Light colours, creams and winter pastels were prevalent, with cables and knotted traditional stitches. Jacquards and colour choices continued the rich, patterned effect and the ‘busy’ look made by shadow stripes, checks, overprinting and textural grounds.  

Première Vision produced strong directions with colourful and interesting variations on a theme for both men and women. Provenance labels such as Made in Italy, Made in England and Made in Scotland are increasingly found on high-end wool fabrics. Goldentex launched a new range of suitings which are made in Egypt, using Merino wool worsted yarn, including a blend with baby camel hair. Top class Turkish weavers and Chinese mills alike demonstrated the growing importance of a high-quality wool product wherever it is made, as long as it has a strong design base, and can demonstrate the increasingly important factors of sustainability and quality.

The Texprint Awards for textile designers, graduates of British Universities, showed its usual array of exciting talent, with the special prize sponsored by The Woolmark Company, judged by Franco Fabrelli of Marzotto and designer Kit Neale, being won by Jessica Leclere for her exceptional knitted wool designs and presented at Première Vision by  the legendary and charming  Rosita Missoni.