Representatives from GU receive the DOGA award (Image: Gudbrandsdalens Uldvarefabrik)
Gudbrandsdalens Uldvarefabrik (GU), which manufactures upholstery fabrics for industries including the passenger shipping sector, celebrated its 130th anniversary in 2017 by winning a Design and Architecture Norway (DOGA) award for its use of 100% Norwegian wool in its Setesdal, Sirdal and Suldal fabrics.
GU used Norwegian wool in its products from 1887 to the 1960s, when it stopped owing to the difficulties of removing impurities introduced by sheep grazing in Norway’s forests and scrubland. However, the company recognised that there are major environmental benefits to using Norwegian wool – it’s local and Norway’s cold climate means farmers don’t need to use pesticides like those in warmer countries. It also wanted to exploit the wool’s lustre, strength and elasticity.
Working with furniture manufacturer Flokk, GU decided to establish a value chain for producing upholstery fabrics based on Norwegian-produced wool.
“Good wool was the premise of starting to design furniture fabrics, and through good communication with the wool industry we gained access to wool we could use,” said Ragnhild Nordhagen, GU designer and product developer. “We discovered that Norwegian wool does not smell bad if it’s washed well. It’s also not dirty if it’s sorted and classified in the best possible way. Norwegian wool may be itchy, but not if mixed with soft lamb wool.”
However, GU has now found farmers that are focused on breeding sheep to produce good wool, as well as high quality meat, and uses skilled professionals at Norwegian sorting stations to sort and classify the wool, before it is washed and spun at Sandnes Garn. Once it arrives at the GU mill, the company twists, weaves, dyes and manufactures it into high-quality upholstery textiles for use in furniture onboard cruise ships and other residential, commercial and hospitality venues.
“We hope the project shows that Norwegian wool has value, and that it is a resource for the future,” said Nordhagen. “It started with wool and everyone involved contributed their knowledge and skills throughout the value chain so we can create quality fabrics that our customers can enjoy for many generations.”
Speaking about GU’s winning fabrics at the DOGA Awards ceremony, the jury said: “We let ourselves be excited about the will and the ability to go against the current and develop a 100% Norwegian wool for furniture in a world of synthetic competitors.”
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