Winterproof: Schladming Loden
Perl-Loden, a flecked, light grey cloth was the region’s suitably robust solution to the hard challenges of mountain life and extreme weather conditions in which they lived.
This form of Loden cloth was originally used for trousers. The Steiner brothers wore these tear-resistant and robust garments in 1909 to protect them from knife-sharp rock edges on their perilous first ascent of the south face of the Dachstein, an almost 1,000 metre high vertical cliff. The fabric for this great adventure, which was later supplied for expeditions to the highest peaks in the world, was manufactured by the family’s own Loden mill.
This traditional woollen mill has been owned by the Steiner family since 1888 and production continues to this day. Not just out of nostalgia but because only the original wooden beaters with their heavy hammers are capable of “fulling” the wool, a process which, together with warm water and soap, thickens the strands, to produce windproof Perl-Loden fabric. Between 400 and 1,000 grams of pure new wool are required to produce a metre of cloth. After hammering and rubbing, the fibres thicken and shorten to two thirds of their original length.
A genuine Schladminger Rock, with buckhorn buttons and the characteristic green lapels and piping, is a hefty garment: it can weigh up to three kilograms. The wool traditionally comes from mountain sheep which graze on Dachstein Mountain. This raw material is naturally water repellent, breathable and insulating, and so fire-resistant that it is also used to make protective clothing for the fire service.
The Steiner company have used their wool expertise to find some very different outlets for their product. As well as sturdy, functional clothing, they also design and manufacture soft, smooth Loden cloth, which is in great demand from international fashion houses such as Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana and sports labels such as Nike and Adidas. Colourful and cosy soft blankets and throws from their homeware range are perfect to snuggle up in – and offered in a choice of luxury wools – cashmere, merino, alpaca and angora. These high quality blankets will give life-long pleasure and 100 % natural, woollen warmth.
As well as traditional Schladming clothing, there are contemporary collections by Schneider, clothing manufacturer to the Habsburg, Gössl or Loden Frey, made with Loden cloth manufactured by Steiner 1888.
For groups of 20 people or more, a free half hour tour: Watch Loden cloth being manufactured, with an explanation of the machinery and the production process. Followed by an opportunity to see finished products in the showroom. Please book your tour in advance.