Shaniko Wool Company featured in 2022 Winter Olympics uniforms
In 2012, amid controversy over their Chinese made Team USA uniforms, Ralph Lauren went looking for U.S. options for suppliers.
That's when they gave Shaniko rancher Jeanne Carver a call. Carver has owned the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shaniko with her late husband Dan since 1988, and the ranch has been operating since 1871.
In 1999, the Carvers had what Jeanne called a "total loss of the wool market." Due to outsourcing and oversees manufacturing, wool made in the U.S was more expensive and became disconnected from its source.
"Most sheep ranchers sell their wool at auctions, and then have no idea where it ends up. The offshore manufacturing broke that chain of connection. It diminishes the stewardship of the product. We're trying to reconnect that thread," said Carver.
Carver has a passion for the sustainability, and long history of sheep and wool for humanity. "Wool is our oldest textile as humans. Sheep provide us with so much. They are food, clothing and shelter in one animal," said Carver.
Carver wanted to make sure sheep could remain and produce wool in the U.S. So, when Ralph Lauren called her to provide the wool for the 2014 Olympics, she was thrilled.
Carver's ranch, Imperial Stock Ranch, supplied the wool for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and again supplied the wool for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
"That really changed our lives," said Carver. "Since then, it has just been an amazing time." Since then, Carver says brands have never stopped calling. As more brands became interested in U.S. produced wool, Carver got requests to received third-party certifications. Carver jumped at the idea, valuing land stewardship, animal welfare and the farmworkers greatly.
Carver credits her late husband for the standards the ranch keeps. "Everything we've done since 1999 had been because of his management and care for the land and the animals that graze it. That's tied into all our products. We're continuing that legacy."
The Responsible Wool Standard certification considers every level of wool production, from the treatment of the animals to the workers that tend them all the way up the supply chain to the brands and retailers that sell them. Carver's ranch was the first in the world certified.
Carver's late husband Dan's health began to decline in 2018, and she pulled back from her own manufacturing of yarn. But in fall 2018, she founded Shaniko Wool Company, a group of seven family ranches that provide wool for a variety of manufacturers.
Carver said that Shaniko Wool Company allows them to "support other family ranchers, support U.S. manufacturing, and play a larger role in where our wool goes. Shaniko Wool Company is really about honoring the heritage of sheep and their history and production in the American West."
Shaniko Wool Company ranches are all RWS certified and are the only group RWS certified in North America.
This year, Ralph Lauren has continued to source U.S. wool for the 2022 Winter Olympic uniforms, and they reached back out to Carver. She's proud that this year, the wool is not just from her ranch, but from Shaniko Wool Company.
The wool was used to create the opening ceremony beanies and the closing ceremony sweaters at this year's games.
"We're really thankful for the continued commitment of Ralph Lauren to sourcing and making the uniforms in the United States, and I'm really grateful that other ranchers have decided to join with me and embrace the standard," said Carver.
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