Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Workwear solution a good fit

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Shearer Jovian Garcia Cummins was fed up wearing hot and sweaty jeans in the wool shed when he realised the answer was quite literally staring him in the face.
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Jovian Garcia Cummins has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help make the commercial production of his Merino wool-lined jeans a reality. Colin Williscroft reports.

Shearer Jovian Garcia Cummins was fed up wearing hot and sweaty jeans in the wool shed when he realised the answer was quite literally staring him in the face.

“I was thinking about what I could do about it and then I saw it was right in front of me,” Cummins said.

“I was working with it every day. It was wool.

“I thought ‘if it works as insulation for sheep, then why not?’”

That set him on the path to create Woolies jeans, which are denim on the outside but lined with Merino wool.

“Merino keeps you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold. What I wanted to do was create a jean, which had the same subtle style of a classic denim workwear jean, while offering me the benefits that Merino can on the inside.”

He says there are attributes other than insulation of Merino wool that make it a perfect fit for his jeans.

Not only is it free of the itch factor associated with crossbred wool, it’s odourless and absorbs 30% of its weight in moisture before it feels wet, so it keeps skin dry, which is pretty important during long days in the shed.

However, despite focusing on using Merino wool for the jeans, he’s not ruling out using crossbred wool for other products in the future.

“I’m sure we’re going to have something down the line that’s going to cater for that,” he said.

After the initial spark of inspiration Cummins spoke to his mum, who studied fashion design at university, about the possibilities.

“She knew how to use a sewing machine and what material would work,” he said.

“We took apart a pair of one of my favourite fitted work jeans to get the outline and resewed a Merino lining to the interior. After some trial and development, I haven’t worn a normal pair of jeans since.”

That was in 2018 and Cummins, now 25 and with three years of product development under his belt, has been working with former Hawke’s Bay school friends Isaac Williams and Felix Watkins to get the product to a stage where, with funding, it could be manufactured commercially and sold in New Zealand and overseas.

They have enlisted the help of an experienced Auckland-based fashion designer to take product development to the next stage and he is quite confident there is an offshore market.

“I think there’s a huge capability to take on the world, especially in the agricultural sector,” he said.

“There’s an estimated two million farmers in America and I’m pretty sure there’s a few blokes out there having trouble keeping warm on the job.”

Cummins is keen to have the jeans made in NZ, something he says he won’t give up on.

“Because of covid I am more motivated than ever to push this company to the world stage because I know so many people who have had their jobs affected and I don’t understand why New Zealand can’t have its own jeanswear company, when the materials are produced right here, the jobs should also be produced here,” he said.

One of NZ’s biggest crowdfunding success stories has been Allbirds, the NZ-US company that makes footwear and apparel using products like NZ Merino wool.

Allbirds, which raised over $100,000 dollars through crowdfunding in 2016 to help the company’s development, sold a stake to investors in 2018 worth US$1.4 billion and last year signed a partnership with Adidas.

“I’ve seen the success Allbirds has had and I know that was started by a crowdfunding campaign, so that is why I’ve decided to go the route of crowdfunding with Pledgeme,” he said.

“I’m excited to share my invention with the world because I’ve been making these jeans for mates in exchange for some beers, but want to hire some smart hardworking Kiwis to help really get this thing going and start shipping worldwide.”

Woolies is seeking to raise between $50,000 to $500,000, which will represent 1-10% of the company. Shares are priced at $1 each with a minimum investment of $250. Investors will receive additional rewards with each share parcel of $2500, including a pair of Woolies jeans from the first production line.

“I’ve never known much about business but know that these are some of the best jeans I have seen across shearing in England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand,” he said. 

“I want to use funds from crowdfunding Woolies in order to patent the designs and to help build a supply chain with my team, to allow farmers and shearers worldwide to enjoy the product that I have been lucky enough to be able to make.

“I have been able to create the world’s most comfortable jeans for workwear, such as farming and shearing.”

He hopes more people get behind wool and farming in general.

“It’s a pretty sustainable product. People try and imitate it in labs but that’s just silly, there’s nothing like the real thing.”

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