ashmei Founder, Stuart Brooke on how Merino Wool helped with set up of ashmei
ashmei was created because I found the performance of running clothing back in the early twenty-tens to be pretty low tech and of equally poor quality. In fact, the majority of the gear back then looked and performed to the same mediocre standards. I just knew that there were much better performance fabrics out there. Having been involved in the development of high end sportswear for some of the leading sports brands of the last 20 years, I thought it was about time runners were given access to authentic performance fabrics. Truth is, I also wanted some better gear for myself.
Without a second thought, I knew that Merino wool would play a major role in the development of the launch ashmei range. I had used Merino wool on several high end products before to great effect. I also had quite a personal collection of cycle, outdoor and ski gear that used Merino because of its superior performance.
Go Australian or New Zealand
Sourcing the Merino wool turned out to be pretty straight-forward as well. I knew the quality and performance had to be the best possible. On that basis, Australia & New Zealand were the only real options. But I also recognised that we had a unique chance to spin to our own specification with regard to grade and weight. In addition, we had an opportunity to manage the handle and feel of the fabric with different finishes.
Merino isn’t new. It has been around for decades, in fact. It was perhaps most commonly found in the mountain/outdoor/climbing sectors before the invention of synthetics. Both easy to wash and dry, it was found to keep mountaineers warm. For this reason, Merino was used for expeditions and still is, of course. It was no surprise to find that Merino was used on their top end products within the outdoor/mountain/ski/cycle sectors because of its outstanding performance features.
So why is Merino so special? There is a common misconception that it is going to be itchy. Folk also think that it is just a cold weather option and will get you too hot in spring/summer. However, they are confusing Merino with other wools such as lambswool.
Actually, some Merino can be itchy but this does not apply if you select the finest Merino from Australia & New Zealand. It’s worth remembering that this is a natural product that has been developed by Mother Nature (or more specifically, sheep) to be one of the finest and strongest fibres in the world. Also it is true that Merino wool will warm you up when you – or the conditions – are cold. But it is the only yarn that has the ability to cool you down when you become too warm or when the mercury rises. I have been running in Merino 12 months of the year for the last 10 years. Now I don’t think twice about pulling on a Merino Jersey for a midday run on a scorching summers day.
Another real advantage with Merino for athletes is that it is naturally antimicrobial. This means it will never stink like synthetics can. Bacteria proliferates on synthetics and it is this bacteria that causes that nasty whiff that never really washes out. Even if you use special soaps, the smell always seems to come back with polyesters. In contrast, you can wear Merino wool for a long run, then simply take your garment off, fold it up and put it back in your drawer ready for the next run. You don’t even have to wash it if it’s not picked up dirt from your athletic endeavours. We do always recommend you wash garments from time to time though as sweat still contains body salts which can stain.
So, these two features are the two key performance characteristics that sealed the Merino deal over typical cheaper polyester options. That’s not all of the story though as there are plenty of other key benefits that nailed it for us:
Merino wool is sustainable
… is biodegradable
… is quick drying
… wicks moisture
… is 100% natural
There is one other issue with Merino that we shouldn’t ignore and that’s price. There is no getting away from the fact that the material is significantly more expensive than petrochemical polyester alternatives. However, there are other factors to consider when working out real value. Your Merino jersey will last for years and years; it will smell as nice as the day you purchased it; and it’s your favorite piece of gear based on pure performance. When you add it all up, Merino actually represents great value for money. If you add in the sustainability and biodegradability story to the mix, then we think you’ll agree – it’s a real winner for athletes.
A footnote on biodegradability and the environment
As we learn more and more about microplastics and their effect on the environment, it’s worth reminding ourselves that this pollutant comes from every day man-made items such as broken-down plastic waste, beads and synthetic fibres. Clearly, if we want to have a planet to ride and run on in the future, we will need to address our consumption and resulting pollution head on. I’ll leave you with this thought: being a natural fibre, Merino will decompose to its natural state in the ground or in the ocean – no bother. To prove this, we tested it ourselves: