By Tom Hainsworth.
They say that Australia was built on the sheep’s back and British textile manufacturer Hainsworth can trace its own connections with the country back more than 200 years.
The precise date was 1807 when the Yorkshireman Reverend Samuel Marsden transported from the fledgling Australia to England the first wool for commercial use.
As it transpired, the Hainsworth mill rejected that first shipment of wool, but it marked the start of a long and fruitful relationship which continues to this day.
Although it chose to pass on that first batch of wool, Hainsworth has being buying Australian Merino wool ever since. And perhaps the most high profile example of its use was in the uniforms worn by Prince Charles and, more recently, Prince William at their respective weddings.
While the company’s relationship with Australia covers more than two centuries, for virtually all of that time it has been about the import of wool into England for use at our textile mill in the Yorkshire town of Pudsey, near Leeds.
Only recently, has the relationship taken on an exciting and dynamic new turn as Hainsworth now increasingly looks to export its innovative Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) fabrics to countries around the world including Australia.
Hainsworth is able to offer a range of solutions using TI-technologyTM – a patented double cloth construction with Nomex® on the face to provide optimal thermal protection, abrasion resistance and colour fastness, and Kevlar® on the back to provide strength. The kits offer exceptional heat stress management capabilities as well as comfort, wear life and durability, heat and flame protection and chemical resistance.
Earlier this year, the Australian Capital Territory Fire &; Rescue chose to wear kit which incorporates Hainsworth® TITAN following a successful trial in conjunction with Australian garment manufacturing partner Stewart & Heaton.
The ACT Fire & Rescue decided to change its structural kit as part of a new ensemble approach. The kit, worn by more than 400 firefighters, continues to be lime green in colour to improve visibility.
One of the main reasons why Hainsworth is so closely aligned with the PPE industry is because of the Australian Merino wool that we use at our mill.
Until 1987 in the UK and slightly later in Australia, felted Merino wool cloth had been used for the manufacture of firefighters’ PPE, but while it was undoubtedly a great fibre, a major downside was that it held too much moisture and consequently would become extremely heavy and wet for the wearer.
Now, thanks to advances in textile production and finishing, the many benefits of wool are making a comeback into the world of PPE, but with a modern twist.
Hainsworth is delighted to be playing its part in ensuring that Australian Merino wool has a big future in the manufacture of firefighters’ kit. An example of this is Hainsworth® ECO-DRY, an innovative range of lining fabrics incorporating the many benefits of wool to provide today’s firefighter with the highest possible standards of comfort when wearing their PPE.
The unique structure of wool offers distinct properties not mimicked by any other natural or man-made fibres – properties that offer many benefits to the wearer and that will not wash out or decline over time.
Today’s kit has to perform many duties to protect the modern firefighter, which are often at odds with each other. It must stop water and heat from outside the garment getting through to the wearer while allowing water – sweat in the form of moisture vapour – and heat from the wearer to dissipate to the outside. It must be robust enough to offer high levels of thermal and mechanical protection while also being light and breathable enough to minimise heat stress.
Since we put in place our export strategy for the PPE industry two years ago, we have concentrated on taking three core messages to our customers in Australia and other parts of the world – Design that Saves, Protection that Shows and Quality that Lasts.
Our commitment to using the finest Australian Merino wool – a relationship which owes its origins to Rev. Marsden more than 200 years ago – and to firefighters – a relationship which goes back more than 125 years – is perhaps stronger today than it has ever been.
By combining the Australian’s innate love for and knowledge of wool with the innovation and experience of companies such as my own, we can look forward with confidence to the next 200 years working in partnership.