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Wool has a vital role to play in the European textiles market, an English expert says.
Camira Fabrics development director Cheryl Kindness spoke at the Wools of New Zealand roadshow in Oamaru on October 1. Her company makes fabrics for upholstery used in public places, including buses and trains.
With a testing and manufacturing site in Huddersfield, a plant in Lithuania and a Nottingham facility that makes ''knit to fit'' covers for chairs, it has more than 600 employees and a turnover last year of 455 million ($NZ875 million).
Camira was founded on sustainability and was the only textile company to receive the Queen's Award, Ms Kindness said. It carries out a lot of professional development involving teaching about the benefits of wool.
Camira uses 1.5 million kg of wool a year, making 26 of its ranges from the fibre. It likes the Laneve brand owned by Wools of New Zealand, where customers can trace the wool back to the farm of origin.
''It gives us integrity of product. We know where it's grown and everything that's happened to it.''
Laneve wool was going into Camira's ''Blazer'' products aimed at the upper end of the market. A proportion of its sales was donated to the Whale and Dolphin Trust.
''Customers love that,'' Ms Kindness said.
The New Zealand wool had to have extremely low vegetable matter to ensure it could be used in the premium products, she said.
Technology that allowed silver to be attached to wool made it antimicrobial. That was an opportunity to move into new markets such as care homes.
Camira kept abreast of fashion, colour, demographics and science to meet changing demands.
''Wool is becoming much more interesting as a product,'' Ms Kindness said.
''We can quilt it. It can help deaden noise. It can be used on furniture.''
Wools of New Zealand chairman Mark Shadbolt said the relationship with Camira, which buys his company's lamb's wool, encapsulates its purpose.
''We have partnered with someone with a global presence. The Blazer range is going all over the world, including South Africa and Turkey.
''We would like hogget and ewe fleeces taken up, too.''
Farmers want to know the specifications and prices on offer before they shear, he said.
Wools of New Zealand chief executive Ross Townshend said at least 300 suppliers would be needed for the Camira contract, producing lamb's wool free of docking chemicals so Camira could meet its EU certification.
''There will be other opportunities for those who can't meet the strictest vegetable matter and non-chemical requirements.''