Flooding and droughts in Australia are set to make the suit, the global uniform of executives and politicians, 10 per cent dearer as wool prices have doubled in the past year to a record high.
In Australia, the world’s largest producer, benchmark prices hit a high of $14.85 a kilo last week, having doubled over the past 12 months in US dollar terms.
The sharp cost increases are working their way through the global supply chain, causing men’s outfitters around the world to plan price rises.
Bernd Hake, UK managing director of Hugo Boss, which has 450 stores across Europe, said: “If the wool price remains on this level we will readjust our prices”.
Describing price rises in the past year as “concerning”, he said retail price rises of 10 per cent were possible but the “absolute top limit”.
Savile Row, the London street famous for its bespoke tailoring, has also been affected according to Nigel Brown, of Alfred Brown Worsted Mills which supplies suit makers on the street and others, including Paul Smith.
The situation is similar in the US, where men's wear specialist Joseph A Bank warned last week that suit prices would have to rise by the end of this year, due to the “significant cost price inflation” of wool.
The price rise has been caused by an 85-year low in global wool production, exacerbated by recent weather conditions in Australia. At the same time, global demand for wool has increased, as increasingly affluent consumers in emerging markets such as China develop a taste for the cloth.
The jump in prices could herald a renaissance for the shiny suit, as producers contemplate man-made fibre blends to avoid passing on higher costs to customers.
In the UK, high-street suit specialist Moss Bros said the wool price was “becoming a problem”.
Brian Brick, chief executive, said “It is very difficult to just pass on a price increase in a world where consumers don’t have more money to spend.
“There is a move towards wool-mix fabrics as a result, and the younger generation are less concerned about suits being 100 per cent new wool.”
North of the border, the spectre of the crackly kilt also looms. Traditional Scottish tartan weavers report wool prices increases of 30 per cent since the start of this year; a cost they say will have to be passed on to customers.
Traditional kilts are 100 per cent wool, contain up to eight yards of fabric, and cost between £300 and £800. However, cash-constrained customers may move down market, and opt for cheaper, non-traditional wool and polyester blends.