Products with the TirolWool® label now combine tried-and-tested natural sheep’s wool with the advantages of cutting-edge, performance-enhancing technology called Celliant®. Tirolean mountain sheep (Tiroler Bergschafe) have narrow, woolly heads and long, drooping ears that hang down to the corners of their mouths. According to the Tirolean Sheep Breeders' Association’s rather wonderful website, they weigh from 70 to 130 kilograms. They have strong ankles and closed hooves, which makes them particularly sure-footed and agile climbers – useful attributes for mountain sheep. In addition, they have a high breeding rate and a medium-fine, white wool. What they don’t tell you is that this wool is also used to produce insulation for winter jackets made by us and worn by the Tirol Mountain Rescue Service.
TirolWool® features in the Sarner, Puez, Fanes and Ortles jackets in our Winter 2017 collection. Peter Veider, director of the Tirol Mountain Rescue Service, came up with the idea: “We wanted to equip mountain rescue teams with a natural fibre from Tirol.” The plan was to minimize environmental impact with shorter transport routes, while simultaneously supporting alpine sheep farmers – from the mountains, for the mountains. Some of the mountain rescue team own sheep themselves.
Mountain sheep have been raised in South Tirol for thousands of years and their wool has been used to make warm clothes for centuries. You can imagine just how important a brand such as TirolWool® and a major sporting goods manufacturer could be for sustaining the alpine wool industry. However, Peter Veider stresses, “You have to get the quality right first – no matter how sustainable something is. I want people to get a good product.”
ON BOARD FROM DAY ONE
This is why we welcomed Peter Veider with open arms when he suggested the idea of using locally-sourced Tirolean mountain sheep wool. After all, the Tirol Mountain Rescue Service and we had already worked together on a number of projects. Christine Ladstätter explains enthusiastically, “He came to us and we were really excited by the idea.” She describes how we relished the challenge of combining “traditional values and experience” in its new collection.
However, these days it’s not only the sheep’s wool that keeps alpinists, mountain enthusiasts and mountain rescue teams warm and helps them to maintain an optimal body temperature. Our jackets with the TirolWool® label combine the benefits of this natural material tried-and-tested over generations with a new cutting-edge fabric technology. First the wool is washed – a process that now takes place in Bergamo rather than Belgium to further reduce environmental impact from transportation. Imbotex, a company in Cittadella (roughly two hours’ drive south of Bolzano) then combs and brushes the wool and, most importantly, gives it a very special treatment.
Achieving this was by no means straightforward. TirolWool® is sourced from Tirolean mountain sheep that live at 2,000 metres above sea level all-year round in harsh conditions where normal sheep could not survive. Their dense, white fleece is well-known for its outstanding warmth, breathability, thermal regulation and insulation even when wet. Despite all these advantages, wool from Tiroler Bergschafe is not as fine as that of merino sheep, which are generally found in the southern hemisphere. And they are definitely not Kashmir goats. “End consumers are pretty spoiled for choice,” says Christine Ladstätter, who is our responsible for innovative apparel. As such, she’s well aware of the issue: Tirolean mountain sheep produce a wool that is not considered fine enough for the international textile market. Despite all its sustainable credentials, it stands little chance against the finer fibres from the competition in New Zealand, especially if a garment is to be worn next to the skin. Christine Ladstätter points out that wool from the Tiroler Bergschafe has an obvious function: “It makes an excellent insulation material.”
The first stage of this treatment involves using Imobotex’s patented oxygen-based cleaning process, called an Oxy Wash. Conventional cleaning processes treat wool with chlorine, which results in waste water with high levels of chlorinated chemicals. Needless to say, Oxy Wash does not use chlorine. This step is required to make the wool machine-washable without destroying the structure of the fibres. It also makes the wool softer, odourless and more breathable. Moreover, the sheep’s wool in most of our winter jackets (Ortles, Puez, Fanes) is combined with an additional ingredient to boost the insulation performance – Celliant®.
Technically speaking, Celliant® is a patented mix of thermo-reactive minerals. The secret formula is closely guarded by its manufacturer, Hologenix in Santa Maria, California. Celliant® minerals are powdered and melted into a resin which is loaded into the core of recycled polyester fibres that recycle radiant body energy (heat) into infrared light and convert, store and reflect it back to the body over time. This Far Infrared Radiation (FIR) increases microcirculation and peripheral blood flow in a similar way to a small infrared sauna. Or, to put it simply, the body maintains its optimal temperature for longer.
Enhancing performance for athletes is just one aspect. In July 2017, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that Celliant® products are now recognised as “medical devices and general wellness products”. In addition, according to a study by the US National Institute of Health, America’s most important American authority for medical research, socks made with Celliant® promote greater pain reduction for patients with chronic foot pain.
Once multifunctional Tirolean mountain sheep wool has been stitched down and packed in fibre-proof fabric, our winter jackets are produced using standard construction methods. However, it’s extremely difficult to do this using only local garment makers for greater sustainability*, something which is also heavily influenced by consumer behaviour. Peter Veider, the environmentally-conscious mountain rescue expert, puts it like this: “It’s a double-edged sword. Consumers want products made in Europe. However, when they see the higher price, they buy products made elsewhere.”
It’s a good thing then that Tirolean mountain sheep can be shorn every six months, to give up to 2.5 kilograms of wool a year. No patent is required and it’s free, too.
*SALEWA has its products produced in Asia in accordance with the rigorous standards of the Fair Wear Foundation (www.fairwear.org).
REFLECTS BODY HEAT TO KEEP YOU WARM LONGER
HIGH THERMO-REGULATING COMFORT
Tirolwool® Celliant® is an insulation that promotes blood flow for efficient thermo-regulation.
REFLECTIVE HEAT RETENTION
TirolWool® Celliant® reflects bodyheat to keep you warm longer
Keep you dry and works even when wet thanks to TirolWool® insulation with a higher content of lanolin.