A passion for wool and quality: a long journey uniting Australia and Italy in an extraordinary process in which 500 hands turn wool into a suit. The fine and precious fibers used to make Ermenegildo Zegna fabrics are the result of meticulous selection, as seen in the ceremony chaired by Paolo Zegna a few days ago to acclaim the best Australian wool growers: Ed and Jill Hundy, winners of the Ermenegildo Zegna Wool Trophy, and David and Susan Rowbottom, winners of the Vellus Aureum Trophy. The ceremony perpetuates a long tradition rooted in the past: the first trophy, designed and made by sculptor Stephen Walker, was founded in 1963 to encourage and stimulate growers in Tasmania to improve the characteristics of their flocks. The original gold and silver sculpture is kept in the Tasmanian Wool Centre in Ross, Tasmania, and consists of a ram and fine gold wire forming a warp-like pattern. For Zegna, monitoring and incentivizing the quality of fleeces has always been indispensable for the purpose of securing the best possible wools in the world in terms of incomparable fineness, strength, length, softness and elasticity. In the second half of the Sixties Ermenegildo Zegna was the best buyer of Australian superfine merino wool. The competition was later extended to the whole of Australia to incentivize more and more growers. This decision led to a new trophy, designed in 1980 by artist Graham Sutherland, considered one of the leaders of contemporary British painting. His original work, an enameled plate depicting a ram’s head, is now in the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. The environment in which the sheep live is part of an ecosystem that has to be conserved, also through the relationship of trust that has been established with the growers over the years. This long collaboration led Zegna Group, a few years ago, to buy the Achill farm and understand and support the growing of merino wool from closer at hand. The Superfine Merino wool purchased by Zegna in Australia has an average fineness of less than 19 micron (19 thousandths of a millimeter) and often reaches 13-15 micron. In 2002, the Vellus Aureum Trophy, designed by Swiss artist Not Vital, was launched for wools attaining a fineness of under 13.9 micron. The new Vellus Aureum trophy, reinterpreted in 2013 by American artist Kiki Smith, is the latest art work created to celebrate the quality of wool. Thanks to the capability of the growers and the long pursuit of quality on the part of the Zegna family, a new record has been set, with a fineness of 9.8 micron: the world’s finest fleece has thus laid down a new milestone on the long road to excellence.
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