Founded in 1842 by Jules Dormeuil, we have always sought out excellence. With Dominic Dormeuil, representing the 5th generation at the helm of the company, our quest for the very best quality luxury textiles combines innovative techniques, ancestral know-how and sustainable practices. Merino wool has provided the perfect material to pursue the house’s commitments. In this article, we discuss the ins and outs of this very special and versatile fibre.
What is merino wool?
Amongst wool fibres, the Merino breed has always reached standards of excellence. This very special fibre was jealously kept by the Spanish who protected their finest quality wool by keeping its secrets to themselves. The rest of Europe had to wait until the second half of the 18th century for the King of Spain to give specimens of his precious flock to esteemed diplomatic partners. Among the lucky was the king’s cousin Prince Xavier the Elector of Saxony, who invested in the Saxon Merino sheep breed that we selected for our collections.
Born out of the passion and hard work that surrounds fine textiles, merino wool tells a story of excellence. A product of years of selection and breeding, the fine airy fleeces are painstakingly processed into exquisite cloths. The tradition continues into modern times as shearing processes remain a labour of love, dedication and talent.
How is merino wool produced?
It is important to note that Merino wool sheep are one of the most demanding breeds in the world.
Sheep shearing is an ancestral process that has seen evolutions over the centuries. The shearing stage takes place yearly over a period of a few weeks. The merino wool farmers we work with are committed to keeping this process manual and also as sensitive to the sheep’s wellbeing as possible. The men in charge of this process can shear up to 100 animals in a single day. An art in its own right, which comes down to a mixture of know-how and talent, shearing even has its own international competitions!
Once off the sheep, the fleece is sorted and graded according to length, strength, crimp and whiteness. Artisans manually separate out the fibres into a number of qualities by degrees of fineness. The fleece must also be cleaned so it is free of impurities such as grease, dirt and straw.
Once this is done, the carding process may begin. During this stage, merino wool fibres are set apart untangled and ventilated, this results in a carding strand. We can create blends of different fibres during this process. The most important aspect is the length of the fibres, which are combed into alignment, also allowing for shorter strands to be removed. Once the carding process ends, we are left with the « Top »: a continuous strand of clean fibres.
The next stage is spinning during which wool fibres merge into a more durable continuous yarn. This process turns rougher, more natural looking fibres into a fine, smooth, compact yarn that can be put through different weaving systems.
There are two methods of spinning :
- Worsting for long fibres removes airspaces and intensifies the twist. This results in a fine, smooth, durable yarn. Dormeuil uses this process for textiles destined for men’s suits.
- Woollen spinning involves short fibres being spun without combing, it allows for a lesser degree of spinning. This results in soft and lofty yarns and is best suited to knitwear and outerwear.
The final stage of the process is dyeing. At Dormeuil, we dye fibres in bulk and prior to spinning. Other dyeing processes may consist of:
- Dyeing the fibres once the spinning process has been completed but before weaving.
- Adding colour to raw spools of wool yarn after spinning
- Plunging finished pieces (garment or cloth) into an autoclave. This is the most economical technique.
How is the wool’s quality determined?
In wool fibres, colour is a ruling indicator for quality. It is commonly believed that all wool is white, but the truth is that it is not so. Sheep wool is naturally more or less coloured and breeders have been striving to produce as light a fibre as possible for centuries. While colour should be as pale as possible, fibre fineness is also an important criteria. It is determined by diameter in microns or micrometres.
Synonymous with sustainable practices, traceability has a crucial place in our standards of excellence at Dormeuil. This is why we chose Australian suppliers who abide closely by the local legislation which requires full traceability. A rigorous process must be followed to be able to display the “Woolmark” label, and any error in processing is subject to warnings and sanctions.
How does Dormeuil practise sustainable sourcing?
Not only a difficult fibre to process, Merino sheep also favour natural climates that are increasingly rare: environments with low levels of air pollution. With quality and sustainability as a priority, we set off to find the softest wool that is produced with respect to animals and their surroundings. Where did this quest take us?
Why partner with Southern Hemisphere countries?
The challenge was to identify quality wool fibres that also matched high standards of sustainable practices. The meticulous search for traceable merino wool led us down under, to Southern Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. We also encountered suppliers who prioritise excellence, nestled in the magnificent landscapes of Patagonia, Argentina.
Did you know the first flock of Saxon Merino sheep set hooves in Australia in the 1830s? The lower exposure to pollution in these regions make them a great choice for Saxon Merino sheep breeding.
Our partners’ commitment to excellence and sustainability
Considered a high-maintenance breed, purebred Saxon Merino sheep have seduced only a handful of farmers. While others chose more lucrative activities like meat production or poppy culture, a small group of farmers maintains their commitment to produce high quality merino wool. In Tasmania, the Taylor family continues to breed Saxon Merino sheep, a long-standing tradition, despite challenging competition from China.
If industrial-scale sheep farming may come to mind when thinking about Australian produced wool, rest assured, is not the case with our suppliers. Many of our partners treat their sheep with great care and dignity. Isobel Somerton-Smythe bottle feeds abandoned lambs in her flock by hand to help them find their way back into the herd.
Respect for nature, clients and partners is our priority when we source fibres. Dormeuil upholds ethical standards and fair trade practices that respect human and animal rights. How does this translate in reality?
- Our Australian suppliers hold the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), a label that guarantees the protection of animals.
- Our Patagonian partner is certified by a country-specific sustainable wool label.
- Since 2018, thanks to blockchain technology, we have produced 20,000 metres of traceable cloth with our Tonik line.
Our approach strives to combine ancestral knowledge with innovation and technological tools. This enables us to uphold sustainable practices and the quality that we consider today a mark of excellence.
Seeking excellence: why does Dormeuil offer merino wool?
From fibre to finished fabric, Dormeuil preserves ancestral know-how while also firmly anchoring collections in today’s lifestyle. In a quest to anticipate changing customer expectations, we chose merino wool because of the material’s exciting potential to suit all seasons, whether in summer or winter.
Merino wool in Dormeuil’s collections: style excellence and wearability
While offering wool in the warmer season may seem illogical, the special qualities of the merino fibre make it the perfect component of a luxurious and sustainable wardrobe, even when the temperatures rise. Merino wool’s breathability combined with the clean cut aspect of the cloth perfectly suits the cool & breezy outings in the summer evenings, while also remaining a staple well into the fall and winter. In fact, merino wool contributes to both comfort and style. Warm and light at the same time, it provides the perfect material for lightweight men’s jackets.
A fibre that reflects both modern living and sustainable standards
In line with the willingness of Dormeuil to always offer the best quality products, we constantly include merino wool in our collections. Discover this season our special President collection made of 100% RWS merino wool.
The President line features high-quality fabric destined for tailoring. It is composed of super 200’s RWS pure merino wool. Measured at 13.5 microns, the fabric is extremely fine and light making it the ideal choice for luxurious summer suits.
With a rich heritage that dates back several centuries, merino sheep are a treasure. All that interact with the animal, its fibre or the woven cloth will agree that any modern wardrobe would benefit from a garment cut in this precious fabric.