Meet the Sheep

A British tailoring stalwart gets acquainted with the animals that help keep business thriving

Meet the Maker

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As the managing director of a hugely successful fourth generation tailoring business, Simon Berwin is more familiar with the ins and outs of Merino wool than most people. After years of providing suits for men across the world, Mr Berwin recently made the 17,000km pilgrimage to Australia to get up close and personal for the first time with the sheep that provide the raw resource for his company.

 

FLEECE IN THE FAMILY

Berwin & Berwin may be a family business, but it has been quite some time since it resembled a small-time cottage industry. Barnett Berwin began crafting suits in 1885. Today, the company turns out 15,000 suits every week.

Those suits supply well-known British menswear retailers Ted Baker and Austin Reed, department stores John Lewis and House of Fraser as well as high street chain Next. The company also operates its own portfolio of brands including Baumler, Lambretta, Paul Costelloe, Daniel Hechter and, of course, Berwin & Berwin.

Given that 95 percent of the 15,000 suits produced each week are made using Australian Merino wool, it's little surprise that Berwin & Berwin has been certified to carry the Woolmark logo for the past 49 of the 50 years the iconic logo has been in existence.

"For many years we've dealt with The Woolmark Company and we've heard about what happens in Australia," Mr Berwin said during his visit to Arthursleigh Farm, a 7900 ha property at Marulan near Goulburn in NSW.

"To actually be here and see the sheep shearing where the whole process begins is very humbling as well as fascinating, the fact that one fleece will end up making four suits."

 

NO SUBSTITUTE

For a company that has been in the business of tailoring since well before the rise of cheaper, inferior man-made fibres like polyester in the mid-20th century, Berwin says the quality and characteristics of Merino wool means the company has never wavered in its commitment to the fleece.

"It's a real, living product," he says. "It fits around your body. It moves, it reacts, it responds and it provides a luxury product that you want to wear and enjoy wearing for a long time."

To do otherwise would be to create a budget product, going against the Berwin & Berwin philosophy of quality tailoring and craftsmanship. It is the uniqueness of Merino wool that makes a garment desirable.

"There's a new generation that needs to be aware," he says. "Otherwise you're buying a product that gives you no pleasure and no lifetime."

And as people grow more conscious of the impact their choices make on the world around them, Berwin believes the natural, renewable and biodegradable properties of wool will become even more sought after.

"Ethically it passes all the tests," he says.

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