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Wild-Wool offers eco-friendly fashion from unusual source
Jan '09
Wild-Wool unveiled a new line of products that redefine practical eco-luxury--soft and warm scarves, throws, gloves, etc. made from merino wool spun with the fur of a non-native small furry animal that is ravaging New Zealand's countryside.

The silky, soft and warm Paihamu fiber is spun with locally raised merino wool to make a washable, no pill cashmere-like fabric that is softer, warmer and lighter than plain wool. “It is affordable, keeps you wonderfully warm and is a creative way to solve an invasive species problem,” states Chrys Hutchings, the owner of Wild-Wool. She adds, “I think of this as a way to let New Zealand's pest become its pride.” Hutchings notes that Wild-Wool is 100% sourced and manufactured in New Zealand and is 100% natural fiber.

Paihamu was first brought to New Zealand from Australia to establish a fur trade in the 1800s, but its population spiraled out of control to an estimated 70 million, outnumbering New Zealanders 17 to 1. Paihamu occupy over 99% of the country and nightly consume 20,000 tons of vegetation—enough to fill a container ship every day. Once referred to as Australian Brushtail possum, the industry is returning to the Maori word Paihamu to avoid confusion with the American possum (which is a different species, looks different and lacks the silky and warm fur quality).

Native flora and fauna are threatened with extinction as a result of the Paihamu's destructive habits. “They're probably the number one threat to our native species, to the birds and the native forest plants of New Zealand,” says Helen Bain, spokeswoman for New Zealand's Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society. All fur used in Wild-Wool products is humanely collected (and not farmed), which bolsters employment in rural areas. The only other eradication method is inhumane, wasteful and potentially toxic environmentally.

Hutchings adds: “The interesting part of this retail journey is to learn that all the eco-friendly reasons aside, people buy it because it is gorgeous, soft, affordable and truly keeps one warm. Most people do not buy fashion for purely ecological reasons, they buy because it is a good value, practical and looks great on them.


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