Upstate Fashion at the New York Sheep and Wool Fest – WWD

RHINEBECK, NY – For jean heads, there’s Kingpins, but for fiber enthusiasts, shepherds, and professionals, there’s the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival. What looks like a kitschy event is at the heart of a growing fashion trend: Wool is in.

Each year, the festival draws approximately 30,000 attendees and over 300 vendors to the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, New York. In 2020, the event was modest and virtual, but it got back in earnest last year and this year saw a packed event last weekend.

Along with the stable animals and expanses of wool wonders, there were displays of homemade soaps, jams and yarns. Equipment auctioneers had their moment, as did livestock, workshops (which included trendy activities like foraging, weaving, hand knitting, and more) and street stylists of Upstate (fashionista on the campo) sporting earth tones, piles of knitwear, patchwork dresses and crop-themed prints.

Although the fashion community continues to feed its addiction to synthetic fibers (taking a whopping 54 percent of the 113 million tons of fibers produced last year, according to Textile Exchange), there is a growing herd of designers defying status. quo. For example, Fibershed hosted an educational booth, adjacent to a barn where 4-H students were selling local Hudson Valley cider for $ 2. its wool certified for the beneficial climate, or wool from specially developed regional textile economies that promote carbon withdrawal.

“What excites me about using wool is that we can address it the way we are, through climate-friendly practices,” Mara Hoffman, designer of her namesake label, told WWD. Although Hoffman didn’t attend the festival herself, she found the means to get better wool for her value chain by working with Fibershed. β€œThe sheep used are an integral part of the carbon sequestration process and the practice of regenerative agriculture helps reverse climate change. It is exciting to know that we are taking actionable measures to reduce our impact on the climate ”.

In just four years, the Fibershed has seen more than 45,550 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents saved through its community carbon growing practices and more than 200,000 pounds of climate benefit wool verified and moved into value chains that fund ecosystem restoration. This is only part of the background available to attendees who peruse the show if they stop and chat with suppliers for a while.

As for the way in which the participants in the wool festival expressed themselves, there was certainly a prominent theme seen in the prevalence of multicolored crochet vests and hats and the like, perhaps demonstrating technical merit or in any case free-spirited .

On the internet, TikTok users are still going strong on DIY trends like crochet, knitting, upcycling, and more. As an indication of its appeal, “crochettiktok” has more than 2.1 billion views (as of October 18), while “crochet” has garnered a whopping 10.9 billion views (possibly skewed by the style aficionados who tagged the breaking of the their outfits). Upcycling has 7.6 billion views, mind you.

A participant in the Sheep and Wool Festival with a patchwork dress, a cedar-colored wool sweater and a vegetable-print Baggu bag.


One supplier, Fromm Designs, which is a partnership between German designer Christine Fromm-Thalemann and relative Analena Thalemann, wanted to take existing materials, mainly fine merino wools and cashmere, from friends and rework them into tasteful patchwork and minimalist creations from sell at the Festival. A royal blue blend snood went for $ 40 while a generously sized fabric fanny pack (reminiscent of a Dagne Dover-style pack) went for $ 80. Knitted skirts, tank tops, balaclavas, and gloves were also on sale.

Although their e-commerce site is down, (Instagram account @Frommdesigns is a point of contact) Thalemann was a walking ad for models, wearing a charcoal gray asymmetrical skirt, patterned shoulder bag, and neck sweater. ring in Dr. Martens style. Thalemann said she loves the custom skirt, especially for the adjustable nature. She bent down to demonstrate, tugging on the scrunch point.

Analena Thalemann of Fromm Designs wears models in recycled cashmere and merino wool.

Perhaps erroneously, festivals that focus primarily on work-at-home skills and activities tend to be referred to as “niche” or “alternative,” potentially belittled because the hobby is mostly occupied by women. But flitting through the crowds on the sunny fall opening day, the flocks of people pouring into the stalls tell a different story.

One attendee, lined up for the funnel cakes, exclaimed, “There are more people than I’ve ever seen here.”

The point is that wool is on trend and the turnout at the festival – along with regenerative wool projects like Hoffman’s – only further proves the case.

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