The textile manufacturing sector is a significant sector of the New Zealand economy. Can you please share more on the industry’s recent performance and major markets?
New Zealand textiles reach a very wide market globally. New Zealand’s wool and fibre industry offers:
-> innovative, quality products and technology – fine wool fabrics, high performance merino clothing, the world’s most luxurious carpets
-> sustainable production
-> uniquely New Zealand design
-> a flexible approach to marketing, delivery and order quantities
In the US particularly, where synthetics dominate the soft flooring market (wool has less than 3% share of the floor-coverings market), we are seeing a surge in interest in high-end wool carpets and rugs. Manufacturers and brand owners are looking to capitalise on the fast emerging trend for products with a robust sustainability story.
For the year ending 2008, NZ textile exports were valued at more than $850 million (NZ dollars).Top 10 export destinations for NZ textile exports are: 1. China 2. Australia 3. Italy 4. United Kingdom 5. India 6. US 7. Belgium 8. Germany 9. Japan 10. Turkey
The wool industry has been bringing accolades for New Zealand for a long time. What are recent movements, trends and the market position of this industry in a global context?
New Zealand producers and exporters focus on developing the finest quality wool and fibre in the world. Their knowledge of sheep and wool fibre is unmatched and backed by an international reputation for innovation in manufacturing processes and products.
New Zealand produces 14% of the world’s wool and we export 89 per cent of our wool production.
Wool has been one of major export crops since the formation of the modern New Zealand economy 160 years ago. In recent decades, however, the role of wool in our economy has changed dramatically. Forty years ago we exported 237,000 tonnes of clean wool. Last year, that was down to 155,000.
While quantities are down, our wool exports are much more likely to be higher value, with advantages driven by our ability to apply sophisticated technology to our primary sector.
Most New Zealand wool is carpet wool, with fibres around 37 microns. It is cleaner and stronger than competing carpet wool and free from dark fibres.
Wool for clothing, usually from merino sheep, is typically twice as fine as carpet wool. Our soft merino wool (as fine as 13 microns) is whiter and stronger than competitors’ products. It is used in comfortable, fashionable performance apparel that can be worn year-round. Exports of New Zealand merino wool have increased significantly in recent years as consumers recognise that wool isn’t just a cold-weather fibre.
Such is the quality of the raw merino fibre from New Zealand that prestigious Italian textile company Loro Piana makes its finest wool fabric from New Zealand merino.
New Zealand wool fibre is exported to over 50 countries. The leading importing countries for New Zealand wool in 2007/8 were Australia, China, Italy, United Kingdom, India, the United States, Belgium, and Germany. For all these countries except China and Italy, carpets and rugs were the dominant end product. In addition to fibre, a significant amount of carpet yarn was exported from New Zealand to Australia, the United States, Thailand and Malaysia. Almost four million square metres of carpet was exported, mostly to Australia.
Rugs are a significant end-use for New Zealand wool because of its bright white base colour, which allows vibrant, stylish products to be made. Hand knotted and hand-tufted carpets using NZ wool are produced in the East Asian countries of India, Nepal and Iran.
New Zealand has the most cost-effective scouring industry in the world. We also export our scouring technology to other wool-producing and processing countries. Glacial wool is a scoured product from New Zealand of unprecedented brightness and cleanliness used in the manufacture of premium carpets and rugs, where colour is critical.
Global consumers are showing increased interest in sustainable products. They want carpets that don’t emit volatile organic compounds and organic denim jeans. This is an important opportunity for us: New Zealand wool, grown on free-range sheep that feed on grass, is uniquely sustainable.
New Zealand is also contributing new fibres and textiles to the world:
-Escorial fibre is now grown in New Zealand. It is a luxury natural alternative to cashmere and pashmina, from miniature sheep descended from a flock kept by King Philip II of Spain at the El Escorial monastery.
-Possums are an environmental pest in New Zealand – but their fur is an eco friendly fur hit in some markets. Introduced into New Zealand in 1837, the number of possums in the wild has since grown to over 70 million, posing a significant environmental and conservation problem for native vegetation and wildlife. Possum fur has a hollow fibre structure, making it extremely warm. WoolYarns was the first company in the world to blend possum fur with merino wool. New luxury products that blend possum and merino fibre to produce extreme softness performance and warmth for weight are now readily available.
-Cervelt is a fibre made from the fine layer of down the Red Deer grows during winter to keep it warm in icy mountainous terrain. A revolutionary new process has been developed to collect and refine this rare commodity.
DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.