Wool. You use that to make itchy jumpers. Right? Wrong. At least not in New Zealand.
Wool is one of the original super fibres with production and use that dates back approximately 10,000 years in Asia Minor. It’s natural, renewable and biodegradable qualities are creating waves of interest as innovators look to sustainable alternatives to synthetic fibres.
Wools advantage doesn't stop there. It has many safety benefits too. This breathable fibre helps control humidity and keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Plus, it’s flame retardant!
And in New Zealand, there are plenty of sheep and plenty of ingenious people. Here are five amazingly innovative ways Kiwis are using wool.
When Kiwi surfboard maker Paul Barron accidentally spilt resin onto his sweater it sparked an idea to make surfboards out of wool. After years of R&D he, with help from NZ Merino, created a wool-based substance that’s replacing fibreglass in the surfboard manufacturing process. And it wasn't long before Barron’s idea caught the attention of Firewire Surfboards, a company majority-owned by 11-time surfing world champion Kelly Slater, leading to a global partnership of an entirely new type of surfboard.
Tim Brown is a kiwi entrepreneur and founder of ALLBIRDS which makes and sells NZ merino wool shoes. Named the most comfortable shoes in the world by Time Magazine, Allbirds are the shoe of choice for hipsters and techies from San Francisco to Wellington, New Zealand.
Anti-pollution face masks
MEO Air are helping people breathe easy with anti-pollution face masks made from NZ Merino wool. The natural wool fibres within the Helix™ Filters, developed by Kiwi company Lanaco, allow for super breathable air flow that traps toxic vapours, removing them from the air. The company partnered with Kiwi fashion designer Karen Walker who created interchangeable cover designs for its MEO face mask which has gained popularity with Asian consumers.
NASA & Lanaco are testing New Zealand wool filters on Orion's emergency life-support system in the event of on-board fires. The Helix™ Filter could be used as a pre-filter layer for emergency personal equipment and cabin air systems, preventing clogging in other filter layers by removing thick contaminants such as molten plastic.
Oh and of course there’s NZ wool in garments. But these are not just any garments. The latest range of blazers and waistcoats from Marks and Spencer are some of the first in the world made with wool certified under the global Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) and features New Zealand lambswool in partnership with Wools of NZ.
So, if you want to see sheep wool meet out-of-this-world ideas, we know a place.