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Wool week is shear genius for British knit industry

With wool sales down, this industry-wide initiative is the best hope we have of recapturing the fuzzy fashion writes Jill Geoghegan

It’s that time of year again, when the leaves begin to crunch under our new Chelsea boots, blazing fires and the X Factor fill up our social calendars and we can all stop holding onto the hope of that illusive Indian summer. There’s no denying it, autumn has well and truly arrived and we can finally give in to our comfort cravings and pull on our cosy knits to brave the blustery elements.

What better way to celebrate our wonderful woollies than with a week dedicated to our favourite fuzzy fashion? From a ‘knit-off’ on the train tracks to student designs at the ‘wool school’ , the campaign for wool promises an action packed week of activities set to promote knitwear across the UK. Even designer darlings Harvey Nichols are getting in on the action, transforming ‘knitsbridge’ into a life-sized sewing box, complete with a giant needle and 300kgs of illuminating wool.

But a much more important issue lies at the heart of the campaign as the woolly launch calls attention to essential home-grown skills and craftsmanship. Britain is renowned for producing premiere quality knitwear with handmade cashmere, marino and angora wool all crafted in our own isles. From comfy jumpers with elbow patch detail or garments paired with leather and fur for a more luxurious take on the trend, when it comes to knits we really are spoilt for choice.

Despite this world-class tradition, sales of woollen knits in the UK have slumped, dropping from accounting for 10% of spend in the last week before Christmas of 2008 to only 7% in 2011 according to Kantar Worldpanel. This freeze in the market has been attributed to consumers opting for knitwear made from non-woollen fibres, rather than buying the real deal and as a result the skill behind our winter wardrobe staple is in danger of disappearing.

Wool week attempts to engage consumers and inform them of the facts, in an effort to promote and preserve the industry. The latest push is sponsored by some of the biggest and most varied names in fashion including Topshop, Vivienne Westwood and John Lewis, showing that the industry is fully behind the farmers, wool producers and retailers and is urging the public to follow suit.

Without doubt, more work is needed to strengthen wool week in order to turn its great intentions into flocks at the tills, but as it develops and grows, an awareness campaign seeking to educate the public and support British industry can only be a good thing.

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