High-Tech Manufacturing has Transformed Modern Fabrics into Lightweight Cloth for Everyday Wear
G. Bruce Boyer
From the Print Edition:
Jack Nicholson, Summer 95
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Then the Peruvian government set about to restore the population and find a way to shear the beasts without harming them. This has now been accomplished, and it is a great success story in the fabric industry. The Peruvian government has awarded the worldwide distribution rights to Loro Piana. Through a joint arrangement, the Peruvians will control the processing and weaving and Loro Piana will handle the finishing and distribution. As a result, one of the true luxury cloths will be available once again. In case you're interested, vicuña cloth--whether woolen- or worsted-woven--will retail for more than $1,000 per yard.
Each cloth has its own character. Each is like a child with his own personality. Crepes have a "pebbly" hand (and a granular appearance) and are virtually impervious to wrinkles. Tweeds are often called "lofty" because of their spongy hand and have incomparable depth of color and texture. Many high twists have a "dry" and "crisp" hand, which produces a lively, springy impression. Cashmere takes the most subtle coloration and lays with a calm luster.
These finer, lighter-weight fabrics are specifically constructed to accommodate a softer approach to tailored clothing. If the 1980s were characterized by the power suit, the '90s have eased us into less construction and more supple fabrics. The softer suit is part of the trend toward a more relaxed, understated approach to business wear: Armani's designs, sweater coats, casual Fridays, mélange dressing, all point in that direction. If we're comfortable inside our homes, offices and cars, why not in our clothes?
G. Bruce Boyer is the author of Eminently Suitable (1990), 206 pages, W.W. Norton, $19.95.
A Glossary of Cloth Terms Worth Knowing
Cashmere: Knit or woven cloth from the downy undercoat of the cashmere goat, found mainly in Kashmir, Tibet and Mongolia. The hair is characterized by an exceptional silkiness and strength, so the cloth produced from it is both soft and warm without being either heavy or coarse. The supply of raw cashmere is stable and limited, while demand continues to grow. As a result, cashmere cloth is decidedly expensive.
Cheviot: The name of the sheep (from the Cheviot Hills that mark the boundary between England and Scotland), the wool, and the cloth that comes from them. Characterized as sturdy and rugged, the cloth has a slightly harsh and crisp hand. It is used mainly for cold-weather suiting, sports jackets and overcoats.
Crepe (wool): Used first for women's suiting and now for men's as well, the cloth is woven of highly twisted yarn, giving it a pebbly hand and grainy appearance. It is very wrinkle resistant and, when produced with fine woolen yarn, makes good warm-weather suiting.
Drape: The characteristic of flexibility and suppleness in a fabric. Cloth that follows the bodily configurations nicely is said to have good drape.
Flannel: From the Welsh word for wool, gwlanen, a soft, loosely woven woolen with a napped surface on both sides. Today, flannel comes in a variety of weights--from eight to 15 ounces--and is considered ideal for all suiting except summer wear; it is less formal in appearance and more easily wrinkled than worsteds.
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