-- When most people think of wool, itchy blankets and sweaters might come to mind.
But a unique breed of sheep is redefining how consumers think of wool and revolutionizing the world of performance athletic wear.
“The softness makes you understand you can wear this against your skin because the fibers are so fine and soft. The prickly feeling you usually have with wool is because of the thickness of the fiber,” Rowley told ABC News’ “Nightline.”
Rob Fyfe is the CEO of the New Zealand clothing company IceBreaker, which specializes in merino products, and has promoted items made of the super soft wool.
“Because these sheep live in such a tough environment and altitude, the wool that they’ve developed is unique from any other sheep,” Fyfe told “Nightline.” “It’s so soft. It’s so gorgeous against the skin, a real silky feel.”
Though it’s known for the feel and as fabric for cold weather clothing, Fyfe says merino wool is much more than that.
“The functional properties are what really make it different,” Fyfe said. “It breathes. It doesn't smell, doesn't hold odor. It's great for wicking moisture.”
These same properties have helped the merino wool business boom. Manufacturers like Smartwool, Lululemon, Patagonia and The North Face have all touted the durability, breathability, anti-bacterial and odor-reducing qualities of their merino products.
Fyfe said his company originally worked hard to convince people to use merino wool over synthetic fabric, but eventually with their success, competitors are now using merino wool in some of their products.
“It’s a lot more expensive than a synthetic fiber, so it took a while for people to get hold of the benefits,” Fyfe said.
With the increasing consumer demand for eco-friendly and sustainable products, Fyfe said the benefits go beyond how the clothing performs.
“It’s about born in nature and worn in nature, so we’re about connecting people back with the land, not covering yourself up in synthetics and plastics,” Fyfe said.
“Being able to stitch that whole ecosystem together and make it both commercially sustainable and delivering to the world an environmentally sustainable product and a whole new twist on what wool can be and how you can wear wool -- it’s special.”