JUST as the state’s sheep industry is heating up again so too are the benefits for a Queensland-based Merino clothing brand.
Merino Country was established in 1993 by Kerrie Richards who was working out of the shearers quarters on the family sheep and cattle station, Clareborough, near Richmond at the time.
After dealing with low wool prices, drought and difficulty obtaining Merino products for everyday wear she decided to establish her own brand to vertically integrate the supply and production chain from the raw fleece through to the end product.
Due to the popularity of their products the company is now based in Brisbane and their Merino products, including underwear and gym clothes, are sold around the world. Their “wundies” are currently in huge demand from residents in Arizona and California due to their cool features for warm weather.
The company has just signed another contract to supply uniforms to Victoria Police and also the Antarctic Division.
The expansion doesn’t stop there. Due to no early stage processing left in Australia the family are now planning on taking their product to Europe to be spun and hoping to find some progressive growers to join them.
Merino Country had pursued a similar venture in Asia with growers in New South Wales but they have now gone into meat sheep.
Ms Richards said she wanted to get farmers more involved in the industry as partners.
“Most growers when they sell their product once they’ve sold it, that’s it,” she said. “They don’t understand the product after then.
“We are looking for someone we can work with that we form a bit of a partnership where we process their wool and they stay in the supply chain a bit longer.
“Instead of getting paid for it greasy, we are looking at them getting paid at yarn stage.”
Coming from a wool background Ms Richards said using about 19.5 micron wool they understood and worked with the raw fibre which is why they are able to create a more durable but softer product.
Due to their location along the east coast, Merino Country also aims to educate consumers and are seeing an increase in people sourcing Australian made natural fibres.
“They are understanding the properties of wool and they are wanting them every day, not just that one special occasion,” Ms Richards said.
“From what I can see and what I’m hearing and talking to growers is there are sheep going back onto place (in Queensland) that haven’t had sheep for 10 years.”
Merino Country have also pledged their support for photographer Chantelle McAllister who created the Truth About Wool Tour and Birdsville’s Jenna Brook who is running from Tasmania to Cape York to support Bowel Cancer Australia.
Both women are being clothed with Merino products.