There are few brands more pioneering than Loro Piana when it comes to experiments with super-luxurious raw materials. Success stories include the softest Mongolian baby cashmere, gathered from the under-fleece of Hircus kid goats, and revolutionary thread made from lotus flower stalks. Now, in a project that has taken 30 years to come to fruition, the Italian label has created the finest wool in the world.
Called The Gift of Kings, the wool is derived from the very finest and rarest merino, a sheep breed said to have been brought to Spain by the Moors and so prized that the Spanish royal family did not allow any to be exported – on pain of death. They kept a flock in the grounds of the royal palace, El Escorial, 45km outside Madrid and gifted pairs of sheep to the royal houses of Europe. Once export restrictions were lifted, merinos began to spread across the globe – in particular to Australia and New Zealand, where there were up to a hundred million. But only a few million were producing yarn under 21 microns, and by the 1980s, even less as farmers found mid-level yarn production more profitable. Deputy chairman Pier Luigi felt there was potential for more delicate fibre and by building solid partnerships with select farmers he encouraged them to breed selectively.
Now, from a few thousand sheep, the project produces wool only 12 microns in diameter. This lightest wool is finer than cashmere, highly durable and contains natural stretch thanks to its tight spiral structure. Unsurprisingly, it’s only available in limited quantities – around 2,000kg a year compared to the 500,000,000kg of fibre auctioned every year in Australia and New Zealand.
The Gift of Kings is therefore a highly limited collection. Standout items include the woman’s elegant double-breasted reefer Tucker coat (£8,270), which is featherlight despite being double-faced; the Somerton men’s bomber jacket (£2,940) and a range of men’s scarves (£1,795).