It may not be readily apparent, but when you think about it ‒ sheep have been an essential element of the growth of civilisations. One of the earliest animals to be domesticated for agricultural purposes, these Ovis Aries have shaped the world we know today. It was not until the Neolithic Era that sheep ‒ which were initially raised for meat, milk and skins ‒ were selectively bred to produce finer quality wool.
As ancient people transitioned from nomadic lifestyles to permanent settlements, looms were used to transform wool fibres into woven textiles, which enabled us to settle even the coldest frontiers. Its fleece was traded by the Phoenicians and it was known to the Islamic tribes of North Africa, who took it with them to Spain, where its ultra-fi ne wool became one of the country’s best known and most sought-after products, so much so that after the Reconquista, Merino sheep were presented as a regal gift to the most illustrious dignitaries.
Pairs of these docile sheep were given to seal pacts, forge alliances and map out the political future of Europe. Spanish Merino, known for its particularly soft and fine fleece in the 12th century, maintained a stringent monopoly on the breed. This monopoly on the trade in merino wool created the great wealth that Spain used to launch its explorations of the New World.
The export of a single ewe was punishable by death until Napoleon’s invasion of Spain in 1786 opened the doors to other nations interested in obtaining this fine breed.
A Gift Of Kings
Embarking on a journey of endless innovation that respects ancient traditions, Loro Pianaʼs genius lies in combining cutting-edge technology that allows the highest performance from raw materials with ancestral rules followed with care and rigour that has gained the brand a hard-won following on London’s Savile Row‒ where the tailors of the monarchy and aristocracy historical resided.
Having earned a reputation for transforming the noblest fibres into incomparable elegant timeless fabrics, clothes and accessories, Loro Piana revived this kingly gift by shearing select exemplars of Merino sheep raised by generations of expert breeders in Australia and New Zealand; the result is the Maisonʼs the Gift of Kings.
Soft, fine and incredibly lightweight, at around 12 microns, it’s finer than baby cashmere and almost as fine as vicuña. The Gift of Kings was born of Loro Pianaʼs obsession of creating the world’s finest wool. Every year, with the Loro Piana Record Bale Award, the Maison rewards the farms in Australia and New Zealand that produce the finest bale of wool, celebrating a more than a decade long relationship with the best merino wool sheep farmers.
Unique and exclusive, Record Bale fabrics are distinguished with a special label that documents their traceability, from the year the animal was shorn, to its provenance, to the fineness of the fibre. Approximately 150 metres of Record Bale produce no more than 40 made-to-measure suits, and now we get an intimate look at the birthplaces of the extraordinary raw materials that produce such regal offerings for those passionate about true excellence and the sensation of wearing the best of what nature has to offer.
(Images: Loro Piana)