How the Loro Piana Record Bale Award Leads to Superior Quality

This story was updated on Feb. 5 at 12:30 p.m. EST.

MILAN — To say that Pier Luigi Loro Piana is exacting about sourcing the best and most natural fibers is an understatement. Cue the annual Record Bale Award, which he established in 1997 and which has been driving his quest for increasingly finer Merino wool fibers.

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“The award was never about simply setting a record, it was instrumental in proving that we could evolve and improve the fibers to reach superior quality,” said Loro Piana, deputy chairman of his namesake company, which has been controlled by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton since 2013.

The award is bestowed to two farms, one in Australia and one in New Zealand, which successfully produce the finest bale of Merino wool. “This challenges farmers to continuously strive for excellence, they are incredibly committed and nothing is left to chance,” he observed.

Speaking at the beautifully furnished offices in a storied building in central Milan, Loro Piana was generous with his time, clearly still passionate about his work of a lifetime.

The interview took place ahead of the award ceremony scheduled for Thursday in London and Loro Piana touted the latest achievement. The Australian farm Pyrenees Park, with Pamela, Robert and Bradley Sandlant secured a new World Record Bale with a Merino wool fiber of only 10.2 microns, surpassing the 2013 record of 10.3 microns. A micron is the unit of measurement of the fineness of a fiber equivalent to one-thousandth of a millimeter. For context, a human hair measures 80 microns.

Claire Foy at the Loro Piana ceremony in London.
Claire Foy at the Loro Piana ceremony in London.

Damien Bertrand, chief executive officer of Loro Piana, underscored that the record is “the result of hard work by the exceptional people of Pyrenees Park farm that truly believe in innovation, excellence and ultimate quality, always striving for a finer fiber, micron by micron.”

Concurring with Loro Piana, he added that the award enables the company to create “unique masterpieces for the most discerning connoisseurs.” He said that “this wool is not just a gift of nature, it is the result of the hard work of exceptional people combined with their passion and true belief in innovation, in the power to change things and improve them day after day.”

Asked for the reason London was chosen for the ceremony, Loro Piana said “it’s an important market for the very high end sartorial range, and this is a way to meet a public that is rewarding the brand.”

The awards evening was hosted by Loro Piana and Bertrand across two private residences in London’s Marylebone.

Guests, including Claire Foy, Andrew Garfield, Richard E. Grant, and Stephen Jones, dined on an Anglo-Italian menu of lemon ricotta ravioli, Hereford beef, and Sicilian blook orange, citrus and Campari sorbet.

The award ceremonies have been held around the world, from New York and Tokyo to Los Angeles, Rome and, most recently, in Milan.

This ever-finer wool can only be obtained from the shearing of a selection of unique Merino sheep raised by expert breeders, explained Loro Piana, “keeping under control the process of selection of the animals for years in a scientific way. These are long-term programs, it takes two or three generations of sheep and require constancy and long-term vision.”

The Merino wool fibers of the Loro Piana Record Bale.
The Merino wool fibers of the Loro Piana Record Bale.

The New Zealand 2023 Record Bale Award goes to Barrie and Yvonne Payne of Visuela Farm with a wool bale of 10.7 microns. The first Record Bale from New Zealand weighed 100 kg and measured 13.7 microns, which means the fiber’s fineness has improved by more than 30 percent.

The event in London was planned to also bestow the 2022 Record Bale Award, which goes to the same two farms: Pyrenees Park with a 10.7 microns Merino wool bale, and Visuela Farm with a bale of 11 microns.

The World Record Bale is preciously stored in a glass container at the Loro Piana Quarona factory in Italy’s Piedmont region, until the record is beaten and the previous bale of 10.3 microns can be now put in production, said Loro Piana, targeting “those discerning customers that have the opportunity to own something unique and incredible, something they couldn’t get anywhere else in the world.”

The precious Record Bale garments are differentiated with a special label that documents their traceability, from the year the animal was shorn, to its origin, to the fiber’s micron — reflecting how Loro Piana was a pioneer in offering product traceability. On top of that, the company has vertically integrated manufacturing facilities.

The first award was bestowed to New Zealand’s wool breeder Donald Burnett from the farm Mount Cook Station. Loro Piana over the years established long-term relationships with the breeders. “For me, it made sense to speak to them, let them know what we needed and listen to their requests, offering a medium-long-term commitment,” he said. In particular, he shared fond memories of the late Burnett, showing photos of his visit last November to the site, reachable by helicopter, where he was laid to rest on top of the mountain overlooking the farm.

Pier Luigi Loro Piana
Pier Luigi Loro Piana

Through the Record Bale competition, Loro Piana has created the Gift of Kings, ultrafine wool. The name is inspired by the Spanish royal family’s practice of gifting pairs of Merino sheep to other monarchs to honor these relationships. In the second half of the 18th century, the animals were taken to New Zealand and Australia, where the habitat proved ideal.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 01: Andrew Garfield attends the Loro Piana event celebrating the annual Record Bale Award on February 1, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images for Loro Piana)
Andrew Garfield at the Loro Piana event in London

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