Buying Natural Fibres: Wool

Buying Natural Fibres: Wool |

Wool is natural fibre obtained from sheep, goats, rabbits, alpacas, and even yaks that is distinguished from fur by its crimp, elasticity, and growth in clusters. Wool is a versatile fibre that is biodegradable, resists odors, and is appropriate for both warm and cold weather. Below I will discuss two types of sheep's wool and where to find the best ethical options.


New Wool

If buying new wool, the sustainability of the fibre varies by its origin, including the type of animal as well as its processing into a garment. For example, because of their lower impact on the environment, alpacas are more sustainable as a herd than cashmere goats. Organic certification ensures that harmful chemical processes are avoided during production. Buying from socially and environmentally conscious brands supports sustainability for the people and resources behind the label. 


Zady has just launched their first in-house collection with a women's sweater. It's made from sheep's wool and is 100% sourced and made in the USA. Zady has painstakingly documented the process from sheep to sweater and is calling for other brands to do the same. Read more about .01 The Sweater, available in three colors.

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Master & Muse

Master & Muse by Amber Valletta is a curation of sustainable items available on The wool pieces below include collaborations with brands like H Fredriksson and Pachacuti Hats. 

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Eileen Fisher

Eileen Fisher is doing a lot of things right. They want customers to know about their fair trade sweaters, but are also open about the fact that they still use chlorine to treat their wool and why. Transparency is going to be key as consumers demand more sustainable brands. Below are some of their 100% wool options. 

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Organic By John Patrick

Organic by John Patrick makes use of many natural fibres, including alpaca and sheep's wool. Below are some of my favorite 100% wool pieces. 

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Izzy Lane

Izzy Lane is a British brand that promotes animal welfare in the fashion industry:

At it’s core are the 500 rare breed sheep which have been rescued from slaughter and whose wool is used in our Collection. Our flock of Wensleydale and Shetland sheep comprise mainly of animals that would have been sent to slaughter for being – male, missing a pregnancy, being a little lame, being too small, being too old or having imperfections such as a black spot in a white fleece. We pay equal and better prices to save them. These sheep will live out their whole natural lives in our sheep sanctuary in North Yorkshire and their wool is used in our knitwear and wovens.

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Alpaca has recently become popular because it is being advertised as (and fortunately is) more sustainable than cashmere. 

Merino wool

It's important to be informed when purchasing items made from merino wool. Merino sheep have been bred to grow increasingly more wrinkled, which produces more wool per sheep. But the deep folds of the wrinkles can cause problems, including a fatal affliction called "flystrike". To combat flystrike, merino sheep are sometimes subject to mulesing, the removal of excess skin around their tails; this is often done without anesthesia. New Zealand has, for the most part not practiced mulesing for the last ten years by finding alternate solutions. Australia and China often still mutilate their sheep this way, so check the origin of the wool if you can. Below are brands that ensure their wool is mulesing-free. 

Boerum Apparel

Boerum Apparel is a new brand committed to its sustainable supply chain. Their first pieces are 100% merino wool sweaters sourced from a small New Zealand farm that does not practice mulesing. Read more about their practices here

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Icebreakers is a New Zealand activewear brand that certifies their wool is mulesing-free. They are also open about their environmental impact and supply chain. Learn more here and even trace your item all the way back to the sheep station it originated from. 

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Repurposed + Recycled Wool

In my opinion, materials that we collect from animals should be treated with the utmost respect. Once the wool has been collected and made into textiles, it should be used for item that will be treasured for a long time (if not a lifetime). One way to extend the life of wool is to repurpose or recycle it into something else. The brand Ecoalf does this for many materials, including wool. Designer Jennifer Fukushima utilizes natural and recycled fibres to create items like the gauntlets below. Patagonia has a whole section dedicated to recycled textiles; the parka below is made from organic canvas and recycled wool, polyester, and nylon. Meg of A Wool Story upcycles yarn from thrifted sweaters to create hats and mittens. Helpsy allows you to shop by quality, including upcycled materials. The wrap jacket below is made from deadstock wool melton that was originally used for NYPD uniforms!

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Wool items are usually quite durable and easy to mend, making secondhand another good buying option, especially if you are looking for an environmentally detrimental material like cashmere. Secondhand options include shopping on resale sites, on Etsy or ebay, or in local thrift stores.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you buy anything through the link (it doesn't change the amount you pay). I only include brands that I believe in, that I would use myself, or think might be of interest to you. 

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Zady's "Sourced In" Movement Begins with a Sweater

Zady's "Sourced In" Movement Begins with a Sweater |

New York based was co-founded by Maxine Bédat and Soraya Darabi in 2013. Their mission and mantra was and remains, "Process matters. Quality matters. Honesty matters." To that end, Zady is committed to transparency in production and to raising awareness of the issues surrounding the fashion industry. Their first private label collection, The Zady Essential Collection, debuted earlier this month with a 100% sourced and made in the USA women's sweater. With its launch, the company kicked off their “Sourced In” Movement calling for brands to expose their supply chains and reveal the details behind the source of their products, beyond what you learn from a “Made In” tag, which only tells part of a garment's story. Such a movement has the potential to hold brands responsible for the environmental, ethical, and economic factors of production, from farm to finish factory.

Leading by example, Zady launched this movement by exposing their own supply chain. Follow the behind-the-scenes photos and process video of their new product, called .01 The Sweater, 100% sourced and made in the USA. 


Imperial Stock Ranch in Shaniko, OR

Photography by Oliver Jevremov

Natural fibres were chosen because they are biodegradable and avoid the use of petroleum-based materials. The wool comes from the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shaniko, Oregon. Owners Dan and Jeanne Carver follow a conservation plan that includes rainwater collection, rotational grazing, and no plowing to ensure the sustainability of their livelihood. 



Chargeurs Wool in Jamestown, SC

Photography by Oliver Jevremov

At Chargeurs Wool, the wool is cleaned, carded, and combed according to the highest environmental standards. If not treated properly, the lanolin and other byproducts of the process can pollute our water supply. 



G.J. Littlewood and Sons in Philadelphia, PA

Photography by Richard Beaven

G.J. Littlewood and Sons, a fifth generation dye house, uses only reactive dyes so that all of the dye is absorbed by the wool and there is no contamination of the water supply. 



Kraemer Yarns in Nasareth, PA

Photography by Oliver Jevremov

The wool then goes through a multi-day process at Kraemer Yarns to turn the wool into strands to be knit. Above, Maxine watches the action.



Ball of Cotton in Commerce, CA

Photography by Oliver Jevremov

Ball of Cotton is a 35 person operation and one of the last high-end knitting factories in the US. By producing in the US, Zady can visit the facilities and be closely involved in the design and manufacturing process. 



Zady's founders worked directly with each partner of the supply chain to uncover and tackle the biggest environmental and ethical risks linked with the apparel industry, the second largest consumer industry in the world.

“When brands only offer transparency of the final stages in an assembly factory, they are not disclosing the full supply chain, which is a much more extensive, and normally very environmentally disastrous process,” said Zady co-founder Maxine Bédat. "Today, with the new “Sourced In” Movement, Zady is providing details and visual proof for how we created our first product, from the farm to factory. We are proud to say that our knit was sourced and made 100% in the US, which has remained a leader in regulating production, helping to minimize the negative impact of the textile industry.”

Never before has an apparel brand offered this kind of transparency. Zady's goal is to establish the trust and confidence of consumers and to prove that a luxury product can be created with high-quality materials and sustainable methods at a reasonable price point. 

"A garment described as high-quality and sustainable should not be exclusively synonymous with a high-fashion price tag,” says Zady co-founder Soraya Darabi. “By exposing our supply chain, we hope other brands will follow our lead in producing beautiful luxury items in an ethical way, at a reasonable price point that allows for consumers to invest in and build their wardrobe with products they feel proud to own for an entire lifetime."



Add your name to Zady’s We The People petition to have the US government mandate that all products sold in the country provide supply chain details with a new "Sourced In" tag.

Follow and use #KnowYourSource to join the conversation and encourage brands to expose their supply chains.  

Purchase the sweater. It's priced at $160, is available in three colors, and can be purchased exclusively on


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