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Alpine apparel firm sources Tasmanian merino wool

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From making avalanche survival equipment to high performance sportswear, the German company Ortovox is carving a niche. Its quest for high performance alpine apparel and equipment has bought the business to Tasmania to source wool. The company will source more than 500 bales of merino fleece from the island state each year.

“I think the size of Tasmania fits the size of Ortovox,” head of the sportswear team, Thomas Moe said. “Like it’s a small island, a little bit of an underdog, and we feel it fits the size of our company where we are today. Also there are many things with Tasmania, like the cleanest air and beautiful landscape. No one is really using this story today in our segment, so this makes it a good fit.”

The business has confirmed a five year supply agreement with wool broker, Roberts Limited that will pay a premium to a select group of merino wool growers. In return, the company requires non-mulesed and low chemical wool and the wool growers’ story as well.

Ortovox’s head of product Stefan Krause said the Tasmanian story allowed the company’s sportswear to stand out from other brands.

“Our philosophy is being there personally, and have not only a short glance but go quite deep to learn and know about what’s going on. What we learned is that sometimes the beginning does not know all the needs of the end and the other way around. We hear a lot of questions from our end-consumers. For example, where does the wool come from, how is the sheep treated, how is the shearing process, and so on and so on. That follows the supply chain, coming to all the chemicals used for example, like dyeing and finishing and so on. So this is a really long story; also the labour during garment-making, this is all interesting for our end-consumers. They really want to know and we are here to learn for ourselves and to be able then to give answers.”

Mr Krause said the company’s garments must uphold high ethical standards and perform technically as well. “So for Ortovox it’s very important to have the natural aspect and also the functional aspect,” he said. “So we are combining merino with polyester and polyamide fibres, also doing some functional three layers using some membranes together with wool backers.

“So this is really from the underwear, which might be pure merino or also some blends to the second layer, sort of jackets and sweaters where we use polyester outside and merino inside, and the third layer outside against the bad weather, the snow and the wind conditions, which is weatherproof and water proof and durable.”

The company has bought its fabric suppliers and yarn producers to Tasmania this week.

Mr Moe said they were visiting wool growers, brokers and traders to establish their bona fides. “We want to establish some sort of transparency from the sheep to the shop,” he said. “It starts with the farm, then the brokers, then we have the wool traders and the top-making to the yarn spinner, then you make the fabric and how the wool travels.

“We would just like to put the light on this and minimize the carbon footprint and try to do things the right way. We are not perfect people but we do intend to do some good.”

Source: ABC Rural


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