Bradford-based international wool supplier H. Dawson beating the recession

PUBLISHED: 10:11 17 January 2012 | UPDATED: 11:11 24 October 2015

Bradford businessman Jo Dawson talks wool with Prince Charles

Bradford businessman Jo Dawson talks wool with Prince Charles

One of our oldest natural fibres is proving to be recession-proof, as Jo Haywood discovers

Jo Dawson is the fourth generation of his family to head up H Dawson in West YorkshireJo Dawson is the fourth generation of his family to head up H Dawson in West Yorkshire

There’s no point in being sheepish about it – wool is still doing wonderful business in increasingly tight times.

According to Bradford-based international wool supplier H. Dawson, this ancient fibre is experiencing something of a renaissance thanks to its eco-friendly credentials. Wool has natural thermal insulation, is flame retardant, renewable and biodegradable, allowing manufacturers to considerably shrink their environmental footprint.

‘We have supplied wool to clients across the world for more than 120 years and have survived every recession and financial catastrophe that’s happened over the last century,’ said an understandably buoyant Jo Dawson, chief executive officer of H Dawson, which was founded in 1888 and is now a global leader in wool with suppliers in 35 countries and customers in 75.

‘Wool is one of those products that’s always in demand and, while the industry does experience peaks and troughs, the recent recession hasn’t had as much impact as many people expected. In fact, the price of wool is currently very strong and we are seeing some of the highest prices paid to farmers in more than 25 years.’

There was a time when synthetic products took over much of the wool market, but nature has once again triumphed and the fibre is expanding its reach into a number of disparate industries. “Wool is now used in everything from clothing to furniture, carpets and interior design,’ said Jo.

‘We’re finding that clothing manufacturers are using more wool because consumers appreciate its quality, durability and natural breathability and they are willing to pay more for something that will look better for longer than oil-based alternatives.’

And it’s not just the fashion industry that sees the potential in wool. It is not becoming increasingly popular in the production of mattresses, bedding, home insulation, engineering and can even be found in coffins.

Jo, the fourth generation of the Dawson family to run their eponymous West Yorkshire business, and his team are heavily involved in the Campaign for Wool, which was launched back in 2010 under the patronage of the Prince of Wales.

‘We recently held an exhibition entitled Wool Modern, focusing on the innovative and avant garde use of wool throughout creative industries,’ said Jo. ‘It was held at La Galleria in London’s Pall Mall and was supported by designers like Giles Deacon, Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano.’

‘I hope Wool Week 2012 will be an international event, supported not only by royalty but by major retailers and fashion designers interested in highlighting the benefits of wool and increasing understanding of the plight of the UK’s sheep farmers.

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