This week at Torsa Studios we explore the background of Merino wool and the process we took in creating our base layer, the Otis. The Merino sheep, which first originated in Spain in the 1797 was introduced into Australia soon after, where much of the fibre is now produced, nearly 40%. New Zealand, where our Merino is produced, is the fourth largest exporter in the world. It's important to note, our supplier Global Merino has spent the last 15 years building trusted relationships with Merino sheep farmers across the world.
They are fully committed to producing a natural product with a sustainable supply chain that is socially, ethically and environmentally responsible. They are focused on, and committed to happy and healthy sheep always. I am personally very proud to work with such an ethical supplier and further cementing their practices, they were the first merino manufacturer to have a full RWS (Responsible Wool Standard) supply chain through to fabric level.
What is Merino?
First, let's look at what Merino wool actually is. As we mentioned, the Merino is the breed of sheep that now resides mainly in selected Southern Hemisphere regions. These sheep produce fibres that are finer than its traditional counterpart, and this is what gives Merino wool its unparalleled softness. The softness is linked directly to how many microns (diameter) of each fibre. The finer the fibre, the softer. Merino is generally less than 22 micron, with ours sitting at 17.5 micron, and therefore considered, superfine.
Merino in Sportswear.
The growing popularity of Merino in premium sportswear is unsurprising due to its exceptional natural properties. As far as functionality goes, there are few fibres, synthetic or otherwise, that can outperform it in my opinion. It’s growing popularity in activities such as cycling, hiking, running and outdoor sports is evident, as more designers turn to the fibre to address the tricky balance between functionality and sustainability. Its growing inclusion in outdoor apparel is partly due to its ability to regulate body temperature, in essence, warming you up when you’re cold, and cooling you down when you’re warm. This is just one of the properties that gives Merino its unique capabilities, and why it’s becoming somewhat of a quiet powerhouse in premium sportswear.
The Properties that give Merino its Reputation.
I touched on the thermo-regulating properties that Merino wool offers. However, this really just scratches the surface of its ability. It offers a host of other natural properties that have helped earn its title and growing reputation.
In regards to sportswear, Merino offers the following functional properties. These shaped our decision to use it for our training capsule collection.
Merino wool fibres have the ability to absorb large amounts of moisture on its surface, and then move it away to evaporate into the air. Wicking away moisture so effectively also gives the fibre a high level of breathability.
Impervious to odour
Wool has the ability to trap odour causing bacteria within its fibres. These absorbed molecules are then released upon washing, and as a result, the fabric becomes impervious to odour.
Comfort plays a huge roll in sportswear, especially with the growing versatility that activewear offers in a day-to-day setting. The fine nature of Merino wool fibres provides a level of softness and comfort ideally suited for tough training sessions and long runs.
The concept of sustainability is a long and complex discussion. However, Merino wool is the definition of a sustainable fibre; 100% natural, biodegradable and renewable.
Our Unique Merino Construction.
Working with our partner, we sought out to create a Merino blend consisting of superfine merino fibres and a tough nylon. The nylon yarn is encased within the Merino fibres using a construction named Rapt™. This construction primarily does two things. Firstly, by encasing a nylon yarn within the Merino fibres, it provides a further layer of durability to the fabric, making it more robust and helping support shape retention. Secondly, by the nature of being encased, the nylon yarn adds that level of durability mentioned before, whilst still maintaining the feel and function of 100% Merino wool. The final result is a super soft, durable fabric, that we proudly use for our merino base layer.
Difference in Details.
When we started to develop the Otis, I looked at how the product would be used. The designer and I spoke about versatility so we opted for a mid-weight base layer that can offer you enough warmth for those brisk morning workouts and evening runs. The fabric is suited for low-to-mid temperatures with slight variances and changes in conditions. I believe the quality of fabric carries the style itself, but we wanted to add small details to provide that unique Torsa identity. Firstly, colour.
The thinking for the Core Collection colour palette was interchangeability. We wanted every piece in the collection to go with one another, and the Otis was designed with this idea front of mind. The two colours that we opted for were Green Gables and Black Iris. Not only were these colours unique in their own right, adding a subtle variance to forest green and navy, they went really well with the remaining pieces, and also complemented our signature lilac really nicely.
Secondly, we turned to trim. For us, trims and detail are very much a big part of our DNA. We aim to make products that can make a difference through fabric innovation and construction. Trims can support that, but also, they can elevate a products aesthetics. With the Otis, we wanted to add unique stitching to the hems. The grinning stitch used for our Merino base layer helped showcase our signature lilac colour through a unique application.
For the thread, we turned to experts in the field, Gütermann. The German-based supplier is the leader in the industry and the designer and I were tasked with running through hundreds of thread variations, ranging from different material, density, weight, and of course, colour.
The Final Product.
After a year of development that involved sourcing, weaving, dyeing, testing, sewing and making, the Otis was ready for production. A journey of product development, utilising the world’s most incredible performance fibre. Watching it come together into a final product was humbling, thinking of the journey it took starting from the coat of a sheep in New Zealand to our factory in Portugal, and finally through the doors of our warehouse in the UK.
We’re proud to include Merino wool in our collection, and look forward to showing you more of the process through its use in future collections. We hope you enjoyed a look into the creation of the Otis, and if you wanted further information about the fibre itself, we created this free guide.
Here are a few shots of our Otis in action from our campaign last year, shot by George Marshall. You can view the full lookbook here and if you're interested, you can take a closer look at the Otis on our product page.