Danish textile company Kvadrat is embracing ancient techniques in order to make beautiful fabrics that answer the most pressing issues of the day
For at least six months of the year – depending on the hemisphere – humans turn to wool en masse; when autumn dispels summer’s warmth and on cold, blustery winter days, we look for woollen comfort, be it in our garments, in blankets and in our upholstery.
Indeed, human civilisation has a long relationship with sheep and the wool they produce. The first noted use of the textile was in the European Bronze Age. Wool gained traction as a clothing fabric in Ancient Roman and Greek societies and brought staggering wealth to entrepreneurial families who controlled its distribution in the Middle Ages (such as the Medicis of Florence). Fast forward to 2020 and the wool trade has not lost its oomph. While it has largely moved out of Europe, with production centres now concentrated in Australia, the US and China, the United Kingdom still produces some 22,000 tonnes per year.
Wool’s sticking power as an industry though is not just because of its warmth and comfort, it owes a lot to its sustainable qualities. When it comes to the textile industry – which is not necessarily known for its environmentally friendly status – wool is in a league of its own. To begin with, sheep and the wool they produce are part of the natural carbon cycle: sheep consume organic carbon in plants and convert it into wool. Consequently, it’s a biodegradable fibre, which means that, if you bury wool (even an entire garment) in the ground, it will eventually decompose. Additionally, products made of it tend to have long lifespans and don’t normally require heavy duty washing. To top it off, it’s the perfect material for recycling into new products.
It’s this latter quality that is at the heart of Re-Wool, the latest upholstery offering from leading Danish textile company, Kvadrat. As the name suggests, this fabric is crafted using 45 per cent recycled wool, much of which is sourced from leftover cuttings from Kvadrat’s own UK mills. “The idea was to create both an honest and environmentally friendly textile,” explains designer Margrethe Odgaard. “It has a poetic feel to it by recycling leftover material,” she adds. As well as recycling wool, Kvadrat also stresses sustainability in terms of their supply chain, with much of their wool sourced from local UK sheep farms.
Copenhagen-based Odgaard is known for exploring unique aesthetics through depth of colour, contrast and patterns. These qualities are evident in samples of Re-Wool, but are even more apparent when the fabric is applied to furniture. “I thought of shimmering pearls on a recycled woollen base,” Odgaard says regarding the fabric. “It was important to me, that the tones of the weft had a certain glow that could lift the colour from the dark base. It reminds me of early-morning dew on blades of grass.”