The fine wool industry is delighted with the recent announcement that the luxury Italian fashion label Zegna is to buy a majority share of Achill, a 2564 hectare sheep property near Armidale, NSW.
This acquisition will enable Zegna to be involved in every step of the merino wool supply chain from the sheep to the customer. The purchase is like a dream come true, says Paolo Zegna, as his family has talked about buying an Australia wool property for decades in order to promote Merino as a rare, special and sustainable fibre.
Count Zegna will be working closely with Charlie Coventry, whose family bought Achill in 2001 after growing wool for over 170 years. Mr Coventry will retain a 40% stake in the farm and will manage it on a day-to-day basis.
Their combined goal is to better promote Australian fine wool so that it can find its way into more market segments such as casual wear, sportswear and knitwear. When demand increases, says Count Zegna, then it follows that producers will be able to receive higher prices.
The image of Merino as a product for young people will take some clever and targeted marketing. At the moment, young Australians tend to view merino as a product that their father or grandfather would feel comfortable in, and that image needs to change quickly. But the potential is huge because of the many and varied properties of Merino as a fashion fibre. The fact is that Merino is a dream product for image consultants.
A key opportunity for effective marketing is the setting of Achill itself. It is set among rolling hills and river valleys which will look superb in advertising and promotions of every kind. Achill has the potential to be a showplace that not only will attract the interest of up-with-the-play fashionistas but also attract people from around the world to learn about the production of Merino wool in a beautiful and authentic setting.
Count Zegna says that Australian Wool Innovation had made great efforts to bring customers to high quality wool products, but that a great deal more had to be done not just by promoters but by everyone in the supply chain. His company was looking forward to immersing itself in the Merino fine wools process with Mr Coventry so that they could better tell the story and background of this beautiful and versatile fibre to the fashion world.
Having so many appreciative customers around the globe that appreciate superb quality, Zegna will be off to a flying start. They have the product and the will to make it succeed. For now, attention will be focused on Achill itself, but doubtless after that will come an expansion in wool production.
But no matter which is happening, image will be everything. It has the power to make or break. Count Zegna will be keeping a keen and practiced eye on the fortunes of his fabulous fibre.
Let me know what have been your own experiences with superfine Australian merino garments.