Merino wool isn’t a fabric reserved for suiting. It has gained a reputation as a hot-weather hero, which is why Vilebrequin and the Woolmark Company have worked on a collaboration that brings sartorialism and sustainability to beach life.

For more than 50 years, Vilebrequin have been celebrating the spirit of summer with their famed European-style swim short. The secrets to the brand’s longevity? Perhaps the joy, freedom and confidence one feels when wearing a pair of Vilebrequin swim shorts. That, and a fierce obsession with durable, high-quality tailoring you can holiday in for a lifetime. Tailored for the waters and inspired by the seductive charm of Saint-Tropez, this French swimwear label has made style paramount in all of its designs since 1971.

Nevertheless, this summer’s dress code is set to look a little different to previous years: enter a summer-first swim short that is both sartorial and sustainable.

In collaboration with the Woolmark Company, Vilebrequin have launched their first Merino boardshort for the spring-summer ’22 season. Certified by the Woolmark Company, this new men’s swimwear capsule offers an insight into forwardthinking swimwear design that is sartorially minded and sustainable. It’s also a playful spin on swimsuit tailoring.

“Our studios played into the idea of a ‘suit made for swimming’, letting the quality of Merino wool shine through.”

“We [Vilebrequin] were brainstorming internally about how to push the boundaries of swimwear further than ever before; we wanted to design a real swimming costume, literally,” says Roland Herlory, Vilebrequin’s Chief Executive. “The Woolmark Company naturally became the perfect partner. We started the conversation a few years ago and we took the time to develop the ideal capsule collection.

“It took several years to develop the perfect product. In terms of design, we wanted to stick to the sartorial elegance with timeless colours, selecting navy, light grey, and classic gingham. But the driving force for this capsule was placing innovation and sustainability at the heart of our collaboration; that, and elegance, was key.”

Fusing 50 years of tailoring prowess with an endless flair for experimentation, the new Vilebrequin swim short is the result of serious technical know-how, drawing on traditional suiting methods for everything from weaving to pattern cutting to pocket placement. Each pair of trunks is thoughtful and considered, demanding an average of 32 steps until completion. The outcome is a bespoke fit and engineering that will ensure lifelong wear.

At the heart of the new collection lies its unique fabrication: Merino wool. Ultra-breathable, moisture-wicking and thermo-regulating, Merino wool isn’t just a fabric reserved for suiting, it is also gaining a reputation as a hot-weather hero.

In terms of sustainability, wool is the original eco-fibre. It is 100 per cent natural, biodegradable and renewable, with sheep producing new fleece every year. It has all that’s required to create a premium luxury fabric, and the fashion industry is taking note. Switching to a natural, high-quality fibre (such as wool, linen or organic cotton) isn’t for style or show. It’s a matter of survival, and brands like Vilebrequin are pledging to act now to ensure the future of the environment. “Merino wool is a real source of ecoinnovation, and perfectly in line with Vilebrequin’s target to create 80 per cent of collections using exclusively sustainable fabrics and processes by 2023,” Herlory says.

“Partnering with the Woolmark Company has introduced us to cuttingedge techniques that reduce our impact on the planet while delivering a uniquely elegant product. Sustainability-driven fabrics and process will infuse all our next collaborations.”

Taking the road less travelled (in all aspects of this collaboration), the Vilebrequin x the Woolmark Company capsule collection will feature three swim shorts that emphasise a sartorial point of view. Navy, light grey and classic gingham are the colourways available, and they come without a print, bright colour or turtle in sight (a notion foreign to Vilebrequin’s previous design codes). “Our studios played into the idea of a ‘suit made for swimming’, letting the quality and technical attributes of Woolmark-certified Super 120s Merino wool from our friends at REDA really shine through,” Herlory says.

“Choosing non-mulesed Merino wool from REDA’s Active collection, our swim shorts are a true celebration of Italian know-how mixed with wool and performance.”

The unique properties of Merino wool also denote a longer lifespan for garments. That, coupled with the quality and softness of Australian Merino wool — something few other textiles can deliver — result in a brilliant pair of tailored swim shorts that meet every level of Vilebrequin’s standards for elegance, performance and the environment.

“The Vilebrequin x Woolmark Merino wool swim shorts highlight the true versatility of the fibre,” says John Roberts, the C.E.O. of Australian Wool Innovation, the parent company of the Woolmark Company.

The Vilebrequin x the Woolmark Company swim short capsule collection.

“Soft next to skin but resistant enough to handle the ocean, Merino wool continues to drive unexpected product offerings. Thanks to manufacturing techniques, Vilebrequin is redefining the way we wear wool by bringing the sophistication of worsted tailoring to the water.”

The question at the heart of this collaboration, however, involves the swim-test: how does Merino wool hold up in water? Exceptionally well, believe it or not. Worsted Merino wool fibres form a naturally water-friendly, quick-drying shell, especially when woven at higher densities.

“Australian Merino wool has a range of natural qualities, including softness next to skin, breathability and thermoregulation,” says Damien Pommeret, Woolmark’s Regional Manager for Western Europe. “It’s also the world’s most technical performance fibre, meaning it is perfect for sports and outdoors. The Woolmark Company supports brands to learn more about wool’s natural eco-credentials and benefits for the circular economy. In contrast to synthetic fibres, wool fits into a sustainable circular model that minimises waste and pollution. Wool has a unique set of features, such as being natural, renewable, biodegradable and micro-plastic free.”

​Vilebrequin x the Woolmark Company swim short capsule collection is available in Vilebrequin stores and at from May 2022