A look at the Canadian wool industry

Quick Facts about Canadian Wool

Canada has 8,487 (2021) sheep farms with 854,000 sheep (2023). Because of Canada’s diverse climate, it has 50 different recognized sheep breeds that call Canada home with 43 actively on the ground. There are only 8 breeds that make up 74% of the flock throughout the country.

Canada’s wool industry is small yet thriving. It ranks 36th in the world for global sheep production. Most sheep are raised for meat, and the wool can often be disposed of rather than sold.

The Canadian Wool Standard identifies four pathways for Canadian wool including artisinal, commercial, commodities exports and pelletizing waste wool. The first two are higher value applications with the artisinal pathway well-developed and commercial uses growing such as new interiors programs in carpet/rugs. The latter two pathways are used primarily by Canada’s national wool cooperative and other farm gate intiatives but are lower value-added.

Canada currently has no large-scale production; however, the redevelopment of mid-scale capacity is a priority for the Canadian Wool Council and Campaign for Wool Canada.

About the IWTO and the IWTO Wool Round Table

The International Wool Textile Organisation is the global authority for standards in the wool textile industry. Since 1930, IWTO has represented the collected interests of the global wool trade.

Each year, the IWTO brings the global wool textile industry together at the Wool Round Table. This event highlights the work of local wool industries and opens the stage for knowledge sharing and networking.

About the Canadian Wool Council

One of the newest IWTO members is the Canadian Wool Council (CWC), a non-profit organisation focused on developing practical opportunities for the Canadian wool industry and those who work within it. The CWC aligns stakeholders to revive the Canadian wool value chain is the official delivery partner for The Campaign For Wool in Canada. One of its most important achievements is the creation of the Canadian Wool Plan, which has three major goals: to rebrand and revalue Canadian wool, to advocate for the entire Canadian wool value chain, and to give Canadian wool a voice on the international stage.

About the Campaign for Wool Canada

The Campaign for Wool Canada was launched in Canada by its Patron: The former Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall in Pictou, Nova Scotia during their 2014 May Royal Tour. Canada’s first Wool Week followed that Fall with activities and activations provided by The Campaign’s founding retail partners, including Holt Renfrew, Joe Fresh and Pink Tartan.

The Campaign brings together major fashion designers, woolgrowers, retailers, manufacturers, artisans and interior designers to celebrate wool’s endless myriad of uses – from luxurious fashion to home insulation.

Campaign for Wool Canada serves as a platform for engagement and education, showing Canadians the benefits of wool as a fibre as well as the importance of supporting the domestic wool industry.

Canadian Wool Connects at the IWTO Wool Round Table

The first ever Wool Round Table in Canada took place 4-6 December, with 70+ delegates from around the world joining Canadian producers, processors, spinners, designers, and retailers in Montreal.

In partnership with the Canadian Wool Council and Campaign for Wool Canada, the International Wool Textile Organisation’s annual Wool Round Table this year featured Canadian wool and the Canadians who are transforming it.

Opening the event, Matthew J. Rowe, CEO, Canadian Wool Council and The Campaign for Wool – Canada, announced a new three-year agreement with the Canadian Federal Government worth over $185,000 for the Canadian Wool Council (CWC) to continue its work to build a more sustainable wool industry in Canada and spread awareness of the beneficial qualities of Canadian wool.

“We are so grateful for the confidence which the Canadian Government has once again placed in us in order to drive our industry forward,” said Mr Rowe.

IWTO gives an international voice to the world’s wool fibre, which is currently 1% of total world fibre production.

“Canada is an excellent example of how diverse wool businesses and stakeholders can come together to revitalise the industry,” said Klaus Steger, IWTO President.

“Members of the Canadian wool industry were happy to connect with their international wool colleagues and newfound friendships promise interesting, shared projects in the near future,” said IWTO Secretary General Dalena White.

Canada’s wool industry is small yet thriving. It ranks 36th in the world for global sheep production. Canada has 8,487 sheep farms with 854,000 sheep producing wools with a median range of 27-29 microns. This is perfect for interior textiles such as carpets, rugs, and bedding. Canada also has a strong artisanal wool market.

These stronger wools are as dynamic as their finer counterparts, and all of the many benefits of apply as equally to strong wool as to fine wool.

Speakers from across the Canadian wool value chain

Participants heard from speakers across the Canadian wool value chain in nearly every session. Keynote speaker Jobair Jaber shared the journey of his Montreal-based brand, Milo & Dexter, one of the very few to use Canadian wool in a substantive way.

Corlena Patterson from the Canadian Sheep Federation provided an overview of the Canadian wool clip, and during the sustainability session, Nancy Self spoke about her sheep farm east of Toronto, where they have achieved an industry best standard of animal welfare.

Peerless CEO Dan Orwig provided insight into the latest trends in suiting, in his presentation about their Montreal and US-based business which is the largest manufacturer of men’s and boys’ tailored clothing in North America, while Christian Schmidt talked about how his Calgary-based Black Sheep Mattress uses wool in their all-natural sleep products and the benefits of wool to achieve deeper, long-lasting sleep.

Carol Sebert, CEO of Creative Matters, welcomed Keith Donegani and Jenny De Castris from Colin Campbell of Vancouver, who delighted participants with their new 100% Canadian Wool rug project.

The Campaign for Wool session included speakers from two of Campaign for Wool Canada’s longest standing fashion partners including Rashad Hurray from LINE Knitwear and Natalia Chryssoulis from Canadian luxury department store Holt Renfrew speaking about this year’s capsule collection made with fully traceable RWS yarns.

Holt Renfrew is one of the Canadian Campaign’s Founding partners.

Among the many international speakers were Peter Ackroyd of the Campaign for Wool, Graham Clark of British Wool, Monica Ebert from The Woolmark Company, Kelly Nester of Nester Hosiery, Rolf Pretorius from the Olive Leaf Foundation, and Isak Staats of BKB. A full list is available here.

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