Loro Piana celebrates record-breaking merino wool, with fibres eight times finer than human hair

The Loro Piana Record Bale Award honours the finest bale of merino wool in Australia and New Zealand. This year, Australian farm Pyrenees Park achieved a world record

Loro Piana Bale Award
One of the entries for the Loro Piana Bale Award, which celebrates the world’s finest merino wool fibres
(Image credit: Courtesy of Loro Piana)

Though it attracted figures from the worlds of stage and screen – notably the British actors Claire Foy and Andrew Garfield – the latest stop on the annual awards season tour had nothing to do with film. In fact, the winners were not actors or directors, nor costume designers or make-up artists, but sheep farmers, all the way from Australia and New Zealand.

Because the prize in question was the Loro Piana Record Bale Award, now in its 25th edition, which is given to the wool producer who creates the finest bale of merino wool in Australia and New Zealand respectively (the unit measurement is microns, a fineness of fibre which is equivalent to one-thousandth of a millimetre). The awards were initiated in the 1990s by Pier Luigi Loro Piana – one of the scions of the Loro Piana family, which started the luxury knitwear brand in 1924 – and the latest ceremony took place in London, with Pyrenees Park farm’s Pamela, Robert and Bradley Sandlant scooping the top prize for Australia in 2023.

Inside the Loro Piana Record Bale Awards

Loro Piana Bale Award

The winning bales are stored at Loro Piana’s Quarono factory in Piedmont, Italy

(Image credit: Courtesy of Loro Piana)

Their entry was a world-record-breaking 10.2 microns, surpassing the previous record of 10.3 microns set in 2013 (for context, a human hair is 80 microns, meaning these fibres are almost eight times finer). ‘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,’ says Damien Bertrand, CEO of Loro Piana, who presented the award alongside Pier Luigi Loro Piana. ‘This enables us to create unique masterpieces for the most discerning connoisseurs.’

The New Zealand prize went to Barrie and Yvonne Payne of Visuela Farm, whose own bale was 10.7 microns. Both the winning farms also took home the 2022 prize for their respective countries the same evening (the ceremony saw the 24th and 25th editions of the Loro Piana Record Bale Award held together). ‘You simply cannot produce a World Record Bale without passion, focus, and dedication, [it’s] such a wonderful reward for our Pyrenees Park team,’ says Bradley Sandlant.

Loro Piana Bale Award

One of the sheep farms, where merino wool is created in Australia and New Zealand

(Image credit: Courtesy of Loro Piana)

The world record bale is stored in a glass display case in Loro Piana’s Quarono factory in Piedmont, Italy until the record is beaten again. The other bales from these farms are reserved by the clothing brand for their most loyal clients, creating luxurious merino garments that are entirely traceable – from the year the exact animal was shorn, its origin location, and the fibre’s unique micron measure. ‘The Loro Piana Record Bale Award shows the maison’s dedication to sourcing the world’s finest wool and the commitment to exceptional quality, the quintessence of luxury,’ say Loro Piana.


Fashion Features Editor

Jack Moss is the Fashion Features Editor at Wallpaper*, joining the team in 2022. Having previously been the digital features editor at AnOther and digital editor at 10 and 10 Men magazines, he has also contributed to titles including i-D, Dazed, 10 Magazine, Mr Porter’s The Journal and more, while also featuring in Dazed: 32 Years Confused: The Covers, published by Rizzoli. He is particularly interested in the moments when fashion intersects with other creative disciplines – notably art and design – as well as championing a new generation of international talent and reporting from international fashion weeks. Across his career, he has interviewed the fashion industry’s leading figures, including Rick Owens, Pieter Mulier, Jonathan Anderson, Grace Wales Bonner, Christian Lacroix, Kate Moss and Manolo Blahnik.