by Marc Basiliere
October 23, 2013
The next big thing in natural fibres?
As much progress as synthetics have made – and continue to make – in terms of comfort and performance, many riders still prefer the function and feel of a high-quality wool base layer. The choice of sheep everywhere, wool breathes well, remains warmth when wet, and can be worn several times between washing without too much stink thanks to its antibacterial lanolin content.
For sporting purposes, wool from Merino sheep has long been considered the gold standard- soft with excellent thermoregulation properties. Based in London and Hong Kong, Kora aims to topple Merino’s dominance. With yak wool.
While yak hair is quite coarse (and is used to make tents, rope, and carpets), the underlying wool layer is actually quite soft- keeping yaks warm and comfortable in some truly nasty mountain environments. When tested, Kora has found their Hima-Layer (get it?) fabric to be 40% warmer than Merino wool for a given weight. Wicking performance is said to be comparable Merino, but a 17% bump in vapour transmission and 66% improvement in air permeability should make the yak wool breathe considerably better.
Technical claims aside, there’s a social component to Kora’s efforts. Michael Kleinwort, the company’s founder, has spent considerable time over the past five years traveling the Himalayas, testing the material while meeting with the nomadic communities that provide the company’s wool via the KeGeWa Herders’ Co-Operative. The company’s goal is “to support positive change among the nomadic communities that our wool is sourced from” in a “tangible, measurable way.” Looking at the big picture, Kora promises accountability and flexibility:
We want to know where our wool comes from so that we can monitor our impact and maximise the benefits our business can bring: only by having a direct connection can we do so. For us this is non-negotiable: it is the core of our mission and the reason for our existence. But we’re small, and the journey is long. We believe in being honest, transparent and accountable in how we are tackling this goal…
We are ready to adapt our plans according to local conditions, responses, and your input: we are open to all ideas – in fact we welcome them. We believe that for this vision to work, we – the local communities, our manufacturers, our customers, followers and Kora™ – need to be in this together.
So there you have it: a new (to Western markets) material with some pretty impressive performance claims that is backed by an ethical harvesting process. Just in time for winter, Kora is rolling out long baselayer tops and bottoms for men and women:
- ShoLa 230 zip women’s – 100% yak wool – Colour: blue; SRP: £105/$164;
- ShoLa 230 zip men’s – 100% yak wool – Colour: blue; SRP: £105/$164;
- ShoLa 230 leggings women’s – 100% yak wool – Colour: Blue, SRP: £95/$149;
- ShoLa 230 leggings men’s – 100% yak wool – Colour: Blue; SRP: £95/$149
How will they play in the dirt? We’re interested to find out. Learn more at www.kora.net.