I still have a blurry recognition, just after the turn of the millennium, of functional underwear made from merino wool coming onto the apparel scene for the first time. Wool, which brought back vivid childhood memories of me scratching wildly while wearing a pair of woolen tights! Base layers and underwear made from wool, which then appeared on the market, was worn for the first time with reticence. This underwear of course, was from Icebreaker. Itching and scratchy were now a thing of the past. The rest, as they say, is history.
When Jeremy Moon, first met farmer Brian Brackenridge back in New Zealnd in 1995, a similar "OH" moment was sure to have taken place. He was so taken with merino wool, that he soon exchanged his synthetic fabric underwear and shirts for merino. After Icebreaker's foundings, there was finally an alternative. "It's so crazy," Jeremy Moon says, " to wrap yourself in plastic when you go hiking in and around nature."
The Icebreaker philosophy: Born / Worn
Icebreaker and Merino, Merino and Icebreaker - have become one word in outdoor clothing for the last 20 years. Jeremy Moon has used all his energy on explaining to outdoor enthusiasts how much more practical and better merino wool really is to wear. As Icebreaker, in1999 entered the European market, it wasn't just that woolen underwear landed in outdoor shops to be sold. It was a whole new philosophy. Jeremy Moon sums it up in rhyme "born / worn" together: "Our product is born in nature and supported in nature This philosophy is at the heart of everything we've done up until now."
The foundation of Icebreaker - New Zealand merino wool
Of course, Icebreaker has changed in the past 20 years, "skinned" as Jeremy Moon names it. Of course, the processing techniques have developed and advanced, however one thing has remained the same, explains Moon: the "high quality of our merino fibers. We use the best merino wool, we can get hold of in New Zealand."
Merino wool is still the basis of the Icebreaker success. This "miracle material" merino stands in the forefront for Icebreaker as much today as it did 20 years ago. The properties of the material speak for itself: It won't scratch, doesn't smell, dries quickly and it warms even when damp. Whether as underwear or as an insulating jacket - it's perfect for outdoor use. And it is pleasant even for everyday wear.
Icebreaker started out with a few basic base layers in the range. Things have changed remarkably since those days..Icebreaker now concentrate on the perfect apparel for each and every requirement. This year the Cool Lite-series came out; a collection that combines merino wool with Tencel (a plant fiber). This, explains Jeremy Moon is "a real breakthrough and a representation of the way that we want to go in the future. We want to combine nature-based technology with merino wool"
Merino + Synthetic =?
This combination, Moon explains, is the difference in approach to his way and that taken by other manufacturers. The look of skepticism is evident on his face when the topic of a wool and synthetic blend arises. "We use, in some of our clothes, a very low synthetic fiber content to enhance the performance of merino wool and to give the fabric more duarbility. This is different however, to trying to reduce production costs. We use as few synthetics as possible to make merino better. "
Is Icebreaker Merino really sustainable?
Merino wool is a natural product. However, it is still necessary to take care with raw material and its producers. "We have high standards in the areas of labour, environmental and animal welfare. We maintain close and long-term partnerships with our producers. We do this only with partners with similar aims, actions that commit not only to the highest quality, but also to our high ethical standards. "
One cannot recycle merino wool explains Jeremy Moon. Unless you bury it as plant fertilizer in the garden. But one could work as efficiently as possible with the material at hand: "In the meantime, we can reduce the wool waste in the manufacturing process, using this 'merino waste' as insulation for our loft merino jackets."
Icebreaker - Tradition and Vision
Today Icebreaker is one of the largest producers of merino clothing. To date, more than 350 people now work for the company. The range extends from base layers and underwear for extreme weather conditions, to second layers up to insulating jackets for a city stroll. Still, some things never change: the quality of merino wool, the enthusiasm for this fabric, the responsible production and the pursuit of perfect clothing. And in our eyes, that's good!