Ladies and Gentleman, I can’t tell you what a joy it is to see so many of you here and the fact that you’ve turned up is hugely encouraging because, as you can perhaps imagine, when you start something like this, you wonder whether anybody is going to respond at all. So the fact that there has been such a positive response is enormously encouraging and I can’t thank enough all those designers and others who have spent so much effort and trouble to produce all their wonderful designs, of one kind or another. It has been fascinating for my wife and I going around to see the extraordinary degree of imagination and creativity.
When I started this whole initiative, I started it with inviting a whole lot of people to dinner to discuss what perhaps we might do and, again, you never quite know what’s going to happen, but fortunately thanks to people like Nicholas Coleridge and John Thorley, we were certain of a great deal of interest. And when we launched the Campaign for Wool it was in an unbelievably cold barn on a National Trust property in January. I don’t think I’ve ever been so cold in my life, but it did actually require a great deal of wool! And one of the things I discovered, that I never knew existed was a company that makes woollen coffins – coffins, Ladies and Gentleman, to die for! They are very special and well worth investigation.
When we discussed this Campaign it was clear that the wonderful properties of wool as a material for both interior design and apparel had been almost completely forgotten. This was the tragedy, I thought. So, a wonderful, versatile and sustainable solution was being ignored in favour of fabrics made from non-renewable fossil fuels. This is what a lot of people forget, you see, so they need reminding of this. The fossil fuels, of course, are gradually running out.
There were many reasons for the fact that this was ignored. Cost was certainly a factor, but it was also clear that we had also forgotten how versatile wool is. That so many fashion and interior designers have achieved so much using wool here this evening, I think, is testament to the quality of this fabric: something our forebears knew only too well.
I’m sure you know, Ladies and Gentleman, for thousands of years man has used wool for clothing and warmth or to make rugs and carpets. Some even believe that hand-knotted carpets might have been around some two thousand years before the birth of Christ.
More recently, much of the global economy was based on trading wool. But now, as we all know, wool has lost ground to man-made fabrics which are, all too often, much less sustainable and much less effective at doing the job.
Not only does it leave a lighter footprint on the planet than man-made alternatives, it is also a better product. When you consider how tough wool is and how long it actually lasts over its lifetime, it does represent the most tremendous value.
Whether it is a carpet made from the finest New Zealand wool or, for that matter, a from the fleeces of Cumbria’s herd of sheep, that will still look good after many feet have travelled across it, or a suit made from Australian Merino which will last a lifetime or a jumper made from a blend of British wool which, because wool breathes naturally, will ensure you are never too hot or too cold, they all outperform the man-made competition.
But perhaps what has been most remarkable about my Campaign for Wool is the spirit of partnership it has manage to engender. It brings out the best in everybody who has been associated with it. Retail partners, who are quite rightly the fiercest of competitors, are prepared to stand together in support of this campaign - manufacturers and designers from all disciplines have unleashed their creativity to show just what this fibre can deliver.
And, significantly, the major wool growing nations of the world have united for the first time in anyone’s memory. A few moments ago, standing in the lobby of New Zealand House, I was able to meet wool growers and their representatives of New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom and Norway. I am assured other countries are already planning to join as well over the coming weeks and months.
I am particularly indebted to everyone who has publically supported this Campaign, but especially Nicholas Coleridge and John Thorley – I suppose you might call them the Ant and Dec of the Campaign for Wool – who have been utterly tireless in building support for what I am trying to achieve. I would like also to mention Kara Hurry from A.W.I., who has done a huge amount of the work for this evening’s event. And I must thank the Academy of Culinary Arts, of which I’m very glad to be Patron of as well which has helped with tonight’s food – that includes Renaissance Mutton, part of my Mutton Renaissance Campaign.
So, the great thing about this, Ladies and Gentleman, is that you can eat the original owner of the fleece, wear it, you can sleep on it, walk on it, insulate your house with it and attempt, unsuccessfully, to set fire to it! So, it won’t do as much damage to you as man-made fibres and if you do all these things it will actually help to keep our farmers going and to maintain our precious landscape. That’s the point, it’s understanding the virtuous circle in all of this which is absolutely crucial for the future.
Witnessing the combined power of all these supporters is truly inspiring and gives us hope that, if we come together, it is possible, at the end of the day, to encourage people to find genuinely sustainable solutions to the vast array of environmental problems we now face.
I hear that great things are planned for The Campaign for Wool with Wool Weeks running across the world over the coming months and years. With an equal focus on fashion and interiors, I am sure it will go from strength-to-strength.
If I may, I would just like to finish by saying that my commitment to this campaign will not waiver and I hope that over the coming years there will be ever more of you who are proud to be just a little bit woolly!