A recent tour of Europe by New Zealand fine-wool growers took farmers to the market, building connections while showcasing their product from the farmgate to the shop floor.
Organised by exclusive fine-wool business Devold NZ, the European tour aimed at giving the growers a first-hand experience of how their premium merino wool is transformed into high-quality garments and displayed in the international market.
Sixteen growers from the Rakaia Gorge, Mackenzie Country and Central Otago were on the trip.
“One thing I am really proud of is the connection of like-minded farmers and everyone along the supply chain to produce a quality product,” Devold general manager NZ Craig Smith said.
“The tour was an opportunity for growers to see in person how their wool gets to the shop floor.”
Smith said it was a legacy moment to strengthen the bond with NZ wool growers and Devold, a company with a heritage dating back to 1853 at the forefront of wool garment production.
The tour started in Munich, Germany, where the growers attended the prestigious ISPO trade fair.
“This exposed the farmers to the vastness of the international market and showcased ISPO as the largest trade fair for the sports business in Europe.”
With brands and products from 50 countries and more than 80,000 attendees, the ISPO trade fair presented a significant opportunity for NZ growers to see how well-established and competitive Devold is in the international market.
The growers travelled to Lithuania to visit the Devold Mill, where the magic of wool transformation unfolds.
Here the woolgrowers were able to see their own wool being processed and turned into individual garments with state-of-the-art machinery standing testament to Devold’s commitment to producing garments of the highest quality.
“This was a moment of tremendous pride for these farmers.”
Travel moved on to Alesund in Norway, where the entourage met up with Devold chief executive Oystein Vikingsen Fauske, whose passion and dedication made an impression on the NZ growers.
The trip proved to be the beginning of a reciprocal relationship as Fauske and two other top executives from Devold plan to visit the growers on their stations in NZ next month.
Smith said the tour laid the foundation for a promising future for NZ’s wool industry and through a shared vision for sustainability, transparency and premium quality, Devold and its partners are set to make an indelible mark in the world of wool.
“The biggest thing is it’s all a big family affair. Devold is family owned and the growers and businesses Devold work with are all family owned.
“We need more growers who can grow our wool now so we can keep growing to meet the increasing demand.”
Having opened a flagship store in Wanaka in 2021, Smith said, Devold is committed to promoting a sustainable and transparent supply chain through its Sheep to Shop programme.
Selected NZ growers are required to supply a minimum of 60 bales of the finest merino wool each year, allowing the wool’s journey to be traced right from the sheep’s back to the store shelves.
For Sarah-Jane Perriam, owner of the Wanaka store and who runs Bendigo Station near Wanaka with husband Stew and brother-in-law Daniel, the tour struck a chord.
“I believe that a clothing brand should take ownership of how they produce their clothes.
“They should not only invest in the growers that produce the fibres, but the animals and the land as well, and Devold does that and so much more,” Perriam said.
“Clothing is made with wool produced throughout South America and Australasia and every garment comes bearing a swing tag with the name of the farm from which it was grown,” Perriam said.
“It is so important to create this kind of connection to the clothes, to encourage consumers to really think about their choices.
“By being able to trace each item back to where it came from, we are starting a mindset shift towards conscious consumption, and shopping for longevity as well as quality over quantity.
“In my mind this was the logical next step.
“Our community, our followers and our planet demand this of us and I think every business should get involved. There has never been a better time to face up to the impact we are having on the world,” she said.