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The Sheep Value Chain and ‘Wool Out’ Sheepskin as a Sustainable Material

26   /   11   /   2014

The Sheep Value Chain and ‘Wool Out’ Sheepskin as a Sustainable Material

This research looks at sheepskin as a possible sustainable material from a design academics understanding and if this material still has application for fashion, lifestyle and well-being. My initial inquiry took me to wool-out tanning in the UK from the micro tannery in Skye, the larger commercial wool-skin tannery in Devon and to the Organic sheepskin tannery in Hertfordshire. From this exploration it became

apparent that in order to ask the question is sheepskin sustainable it was first necessary to ask if sheep rearing in the UK a sustainable proposition? This led me to probe all aspects of the sheep value chain. Can ‘wool skin’ or wool on leather sheepskin be a sustainable material and how is it co dependent with the food market as sheepskin is a by-product of the meat industry?

Over the last few years I have interviewed and taken oral history accounts from different stakeholders - farmers, veterinary surgeons, smallholders, agricultural merchants, farming journalists, tanneries and skin merchants. This work tries to unpick the sheep value chain in the United Kingdom from land use, farming, husbandry, and tanning and discover its implications for garment design.

There is an increased awareness in fashion design of the importance of ethical design in regards to labour and a growing understanding of ecological and sustainable importance in fibre production. However there is little explored of how land apportion contributes to the geo political, social and economic impact on ecological and ethical sustainability of fibres. More research has been undertaken in

water and chemical requirements and carbon footprint that a fibre imposes on the planet from cradle to gate but an analysis on the connection of fibre with the land as a resource in association with livestock has not been examined.

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