Fair Fashion,  Heroines

Pag Island’s All Natural Waste Wool: A Creative Eco Fashion Challenge

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Guest Post by Kristin Vukovic

Pag is a northern Croatian island made famous by its intricate handmade lace called Paška čipka, and Paški sir, its unique sheep’s milk cheese. The dry and craggy island of 8,000 inhabitants has a long tradition of cheese making and agriculture—and the island’s sheep play a starring role.

There are 30,000 tagged autochthonous sheep on Pag Island, and a few thousand “untagged” that roam free outside of organized flocks. Come shearing season in June, each sheep gives approximately 1 kilo of wool—that’s 66,000 pounds of wool annually! Presently, shepherds leave the wool lying in their pastures, which is unfortunate in many ways: the wool itself is wasted, and nothing can grow where the wool is left to rot.

Ivo Butković is a Pag Island native and founder of the Suhozid Association, which literally translates as “The Drywall” Association. The organization takes its name from the drystone building technique still used today in Croatia. Suhozid aims to preserve the cultural heritage of Pag Island by creating projects that bring awareness to island’s wealth of history and natural resources.

One of Suhozid’s projects, which has been in the works for the past few years, involves building a real drystone “ethno village” in the town of Kolan that would allow visitors to see how people used to live on Pag Island. Discarded wool will be used to show tourists how the fibers were processed to use as material for clothing, and how crafts were made in old times. Wool clothing, accessories and souvenirs will be available for purchase in the ethno village. Suhozid hopes the project will be live by summer 2012.

Kolan’s ethno village will not be able to use all 66,000 pounds of Pag Island wool produced annually, which is why I’m determined to find an eco-fashion partner that will bring awareness to the issue of discarded wool on Pag Island by helping make use of it.

The wool could be used to make a limited edition or capsule collection, and include a tag that reads:

Wool from Pag Island’s autochthonous sheep was used to make this garment. By purchasing this item, you are helping Croatian shepherds maintain a sustainable lifestyle. A portion of the proceeds benefit the next generation of Pag Island shepherds.

If you would like to become involved in this project, please email Kristin Vuković at [email protected] Read the latest news at psfrompag.com.

Images by Kristin Vukovic.

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Starre Vartan is founder and editor-in-chief of Eco-Chick.com and the author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life. She's also a freelance science and environment writer who has published in National Geographic, CNN, Scientific American, Mental Floss, Pacific Standard, the NRDC, and many more. She lives on an island in Puget Sound with her partner and black cat. She was a geologist in her first career, and still picks up rocks wherever she goes.