“I’m always on a quest to find the next best natural fiber,” says Pier Luigi Loro Piana, deputy chairman of his family’s eponymous company, which is now part of the LVMH Group. As the sixth-generation head of Italian clothier Loro Piana, Pier Luigi has pioneered the use of obscure but sumptuous textiles such as vicuña and lotus while also striving to improve standards like silk, cashmere and wool. “Our farmers have become family,” Loro Piana says.
When it comes to wool, Loro Piana’s crowning achievement is the Record Bale fabric, made each year from a bale of the finest wool produced from Merino sheep, which are renowned for the quality of their wool. The Record Bale represents about 1 percent of the wool production of Australia. A bespoke Loro Piana suit made with the Record Bale fabric starts at $22,500 and can exceed $30,000.
What makes the Record Bale so special? The quality of a wool fiber is measured by its diameter; the thinner the fiber, the softer the fabric and the better it drapes. A strand of human hair is 100 microns in diameter; according to Loro Piana, the thinnest yarn ever produced from the Record Bale is 10.6 microns.
To incentivize sheep farmers in Australia and New Zealand, Loro Piana has created the World Wool Record Challenge, a competition that tests their breeding know-how. Farmers track which ewes and rams have the softest fibers, then select and shear the finest. The care given to the sheep also matters. “The animals must be sustainably treated and raised,” says Loro Piana. The prized ruminants live in luxury, with perks such as regular combings, massages and custom coats to protect them from windy and wet weather, which can coarsen their wool.
The resulting suits are remarkably soft yet strong, with great breathability and structure. You can buy a more expensive suit, but it would be hard to buy a better one.