From the field to Gucci fashion: the sustainable revolution of Uruguayan wool

The wool producer, Gabriela Bordabehere, participated in the first Agro en Punta meeting and discussed her successful experience.
Publication date: 22/02/2024

The international fashion industry turned its eyes to Uruguay and highlighted the exceptional quality and sustainable practices in producing merino wool, led by producers like Gabriela Bordabehere, committed to animal welfare and environmental respect.

2023 was a year of outstanding recognition in this area for the Uruguayan producer, one of the visible faces of the regenerative agriculture program Nativa Regen of Chargeurs Luxury Fibers, part of the French group Chargeurs.

For her way of working, the Uruguayan was chosen as an exemplary story in the annual Impact Report that the European luxury brand Gucci carries out annually.

Months earlier, Bordabehere also received a significant award for Climate Action and Sustainability from the National Chamber of Italian Fashion at the Sustainable Fashion Awards 2022. Bordabehere’s daily work at La Soledad, its production facility located in Tacuarembó, was captured in an audiovisual piece and caught the attention of Gucci for its commitment to ethical production values. In 2024, during his participation in the panel “Achieving sustainable goals: environmental footprint and innovation in Uruguay” at the Agro en Punta meeting, Bordabehere shared his excitement and pride for Gucci’s recognition of his work and the values she promotes.

“It is not minor to see that a company like Gucci is looking at South America, at the story of a simple woman who works in rural areas and has values they want to promote. They want their products to have a story of responsibility, honesty, work, vision for the future, and a person who knows how to form work teams and promote people who work for the local community. That is what a large company looked at,” she said.

The panel also included the general director of Uruguay’s Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries, Fernanda Maldonado, who emphasized that the country is highly valued worldwide for its scientific credibility, and the vice-president of the Republic, Beatriz Argimón, who highlighted Uruguay’s extensive social commitment to the environment and sustainable production.

“Uruguay comes with a musculature that today is much more seen as the will of very clear public policies,” Argimón stated and also pointed out the potential of Uruguayan wool in the international market and the country’s distinctive position due to its stability and seriousness in agro-exporting matters.

Collective sustainability as a banner

For Bordabehere, the work with Gucci, far from being an individual achievement, resulted from a collective project involving 13 producers under the umbrella of regenerative agriculture, the NATIVA Regen de Chargeurs project. This connection with the fashion brand not only represented a commercial milestone but also validated the values and practices they stand for.

“When I was at La Scala in Milan, before receiving the award, I was told by Gucci’s Sustainability sector that they had tested Uruguayan wools and highlighted their excellence,” she explained about this international recognition.

“The big brands are putting their focus on something normal for us; it is part of our daily work and of many Uruguayan producers: taking care of the environment, taking care of the land, taking care of the animals, using animal welfare standards and taking care of our people, our work team. It is presented as something new, but we do it habitually here in Uruguay. Uruguay is showing the world how it works,” Bordabehere told Uruguay XXI.

His 1,266-hectare La Soledad farm is located near San Gregorio del Polanco, in Tacuarembó, surrounded by the Negro River. It is an entirely sandy field, with a mixed production system of cattle and sheep and a summer forage production. Once the wool leaves La Soledad, it goes to the commuting process of Lanas Trinidad, which, for many, is a leader in circular economy practices.

“Our traceability system allows us to identify the wool throughout the entire industrialization process, from the farm to the delivery of the product to our customers,” says the Uruguayan company.

The great learning during their time in Italy was to recognize that big brands tend to change the world. “We producers in Uruguay have that opportunity working, taking care of the land, taking care of biodiversity, our environment and also taking care of our people,” emphasized Bordabehere at Agro en Punta, underlining the crucial role that commitment to the environment and the community plays in the success of their initiatives.

“We are producing products of the highest quality. The effort made in Uruguay is paying off. There are not only personal efforts but also the efforts of institutions that are working on the issue of genetics and improvement of the final wool product,” she said.

Bordabehere’s work has gone hand in hand with the National Institute of Agricultural Research (INIA), among others. “There are many years of research and information that they provide to producers to improve our product,” she said.

When asked about the values that inspire her in her work, Bordabehere said that “the first thing is to put passion in what you do, responsibility, to get advice from people who know, who are the technicians that are at the service of the Uruguayan producer, such as the Uruguayan Wool Secretariat (SUL) and INIA. It is necessary to form good work teams. What you see in Soledad is happy, committed people, all aligned to move the company forward,” she concluded.