What is Merino Wool?

ZQ Merino believe that you are what you wear, and Merino, when produced right, is a smart and sustainable choice. How do you know its done right? By wearing ZQ Merino.

Merinos are an ancient brand of sheep that have evolved and thrived, in environments with extremes of heat and cold. Their fine fleece is the reason they survive so well in extremes, it keeps them warm and dry in the winter and cool and comfortable in the summer. ZQ Merino is a fibre brand that was born from a desire to deliver the best, most natural and high performance Merino fibre. To ensure that it is produced with a high standard of environmental integrity, social

responsibility and animal welfare. Third party, AsureQuality, accredits it. Importantly, it is transacted in a way that is economically sustainable for both the growers that produce ZQ Merino fibre and the retail brands that transform it into some of the world’s most luxurious and high performance garments.

ZQ Merino is more than a brand, it is a philosophy deeply ingrained in their growers. New Zealand’s indigenous people, the Maori, have a word that aptly describes this; Kaitiakitanga – meaning guardianship, of the sky, the sea and the land, it means that we must care for and nurture these as we would  our own family, so that it will in turn nurture us.

Fibre Quality

  • Engineered by nature for comfort and performance
  • Super soft and never scratchy
  • Odour management
  • Manages heat and moisture to warm or cool when you need it
  • Hand selected by experts for guaranteed quality
  • Sourced and accredited from our friendly farmers
  • Smart for all seasons

Biodegradation

In today’s ‘throw-away’ society, the ability of a product to be composted, and conform to the ‘cradle-to-cradle’ concept of sustainable resource use is an important aspect of overall product quality. Sustainability is also becoming an important purchasing consideration of socially conscious consumers. Proactive retailers are recognising the environmental benefits of Merino fibre as a further point of difference over synthetics in the market place. ZQ Merino is a high performance, naturally biodegradable fibre that meets consumers’ demands for quality and environmental performance.

Merino fabrics are relatively resistant to microbial attack, but can be susceptible to decay under certain conditions, particularly if soiled. Such soiling often provides the source of nutrients needed to sustain an initial microbial incursion. The results of a trial that compared a range of Merino knit fabrics to polyester knit fabric buried in soil over a nine-month period clearly demonstrated the biodegradation behaviour of the Merino products (Hamilton and Causer, 2011). The knitted Merino fabrics all demonstrated around 36% mass loss after two months burial and ~ 76-99% at nine months. In comparison, the polyester knit fabric did not degrade at all during the course of the nine month burial period.

Animal Welfare

A truly natural farming system – ZQ Merino sheep are born free range, roaming in open pastures and with typically more than one acre per sheep, they display their natural behaviours with minimal intervention. Merino are born and bred in environments which experience extremes in temperature (both hot and cold) and have evolved to these conditions, where they survive and thrive. Further to this sheep in good physical and nutritional health are better able to withstanding changing natural conditions. Sheep condition is reflected in their fibre; any stress will result in breaks or weakness.

 

Social and Economic Sustainability

Traceability
ZQ is not available through the traditional commodity auction sale mechanism as it does not offer economical sustainability. Instead it is supplied through contracts that also provide traceability through the value chain, which insures the integrity of ZQ shipments are protected.

Stewardship of the land
The long-term sustainability of farming is directly related to farm gate returns and balancing productive capacity of the land (the nutritional needs of the animals, and the biodiversity and the ecological habitats on the farm). The ZQ Merino programme requires careful and

responsible stewardship of the land, as well as the health and safety of those living and working on it.

Validated. Proven. Accredited.
The ZQ Accreditation is a comprehensive system that has several key areas: animal health and welfare, environmental care and social sustainability. AsureQuality, a government owned third party auditor regularly audits ZQ farms.

In addition, random selections of ZQ farms are visited for veterinarian audit to ensure that the practice of mulesing is not conducted on the property.

Responsible Merino

ZQ are continually working towards further understanding of how Merino fibre performs in a range of environments and applications associated with the production and processing Merino fibre.

These include:

  • Working both independently and collectively with other industry initiatives such as the International Wool Textile Organisations research programme to understand the lifetime environmental impacts associated with Merino production, from farm gate to eventual end of life disposal.
  • Continually striving for greater transparency of how ZQ Merino is produced and handled, and are delivering this through online channels.
  • Research projects that include: impacts of Merino sheep grazing on biodiversity, the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and bio-degradation of Merino garments, animal health and management research and technical validation research around garment performance in a range of applications and range of environments.

Zegna Baruffa

Tracability
Passion as a guide, quality as the only constant.  Zegna Baruffa are committed every day in the implementation of management and controls on chemical substances and production processes, monitoring the possible presence of dangerous substances in the incoming raw materials, with particular attention to alkylphenols and alkylphenol ethoxylates.

Environmental Protection
Zegna Baruffa use highly sophisticated tools and machinery that optimize energy and water consumption . Since 2018 they have used 100% of green energy combined with a constant technological 

 

modernisation of the lighting of the production departments, promoting a circular economy endeavouring to reuse as much of the resources and by-products of raw materials in yarn processing processes as possible. In 2018, about 70% of waste material was destined for reuse and recovery.

Human Resources and Communities
Zegna Baruffa’s factory has grown a community of people united by the same spirit of dedication, where respect is a key to the production process.  They recognise that the workers are the beating heart of the factory and are incremental to the success of the company. All 757 employees have an adherent commitment to respecting the values laid down by the company.

Key terms

Micron – The measurement used for wool fibre (the lower the micron the lower the fibre).

Wool Classing – Every single fleece, from every single Merino sheep that produces ZQ Merino fibre is hand classified for quality and sustainability by a qualified wool classer.

Shearing – The process that annually harvests the fibre from the sheep, it’s a bit like having your hair cut short once a year.

 

Mustering – The process of gathering livestock to a central location for stock management, for example, shearing and animal health. Farms are typically in excess of 10,000 acres, up to hundreds of thousands of acres in area, so this can be a long process.

Mulesing – The process of removing folds of skin from the tail area of sheep, intended to prevent fly strike.