Italy is famous for producing some of the most beautiful fabrics in the world, but most people are unaware of the long tradition of producing fabrics from recycled wool.
Each year more than 25,000 tonnes of textile waste are recycled and woven into new fabrics. This industry gives new life to textiles that would otherwise be dumped or incinerated.
This textile alchemy produces low-impact, sustainable fabrics that Rembrandt have used for more than a decade to produce winter jackets, blazers, coats and outerwear.
environmental benefits of recycled wool
There are many benefits of recycling existing textiles.
No additional sheep are required to grow the wool, no additional dyes are required, and water and energy use are much lower than producing fabrics from scratch.
Compared to conventional methods, the use of recycled textiles saves 60 million kilowatts of energy, 500,000 cubic metres of water and 18,000 tonnes of CO2 annually.
history of recycled wool in Prato
Prato is an Italian city situated near Florence, with a history of textile production dating back to the 12th century.
Unlike their cousins in the northern Italian region of Biella (the area famous for suiting fabrics), the industry of Prato is not dominated by large, vertically integrated mills. Instead, more than 200 companies operate in the area, each focussing on one specific part of the textile recycling process. This way of approaching the manufacture of recycled fabrics creates a symbiotic relationship between many small suppliers, each reliant on the other for success.
The story of textile recycling in Prato was, until recently, a secret known only to those in the trade. Now, as we all strive towards more sustainable production, it is time to tell their story.
how recycled wool is made
Textile scraps are sorted, by hand, into individual colours and impurities are removed. This first step is vital since the colour of these scraps will determine the colour of the yarn used to weave the fabrics.
Each of the sorting factories works with a limited number of fibre types. For example, one factory we visited sorted only pure wool textile scraps, while other factories in the area sort different pure or blended fibres.
The textile scraps are then pulled apart to release the fibres, before being washed, carded, spun and finally woven into new fabrics. Any scraps from the weaving and finishing mills are returned to the start of the process to be used again. Each of these steps is handled by a different company, in fact there are seven steps, handled by seven different companies, each working for our supplier.
recycled wool collection
Rembrandt began using recycled wool fabrics long before sustainable textiles became fashionable, these fabrics are an excellent choice for winter blazers and overcoats.