“I have been involved in the development of high-end sportswear for some of the leading sports brands for the more than 20 years, and when I founded ashmei in 2012 I knew Merino wool would play a major role in the development of ashmei apparel,” Mr Brooke said.
“We don’t choose a price point, and then select a fabric and make the best product we can out of it. Rather, we work from the best fibre and develop the clothing for ultimate performance, quality and style. Every product has to be the best there is or we won’t launch it.”
While the performance benefits of the fibre have always been supremely important to ashmei, the company is also using the origin of Merino wool on wool-growing properties in its marketing to retailers and consumers.
ashmei recently exhibited at The Running Event in Orlando, Florida – one of the world’s premier running expos which attracted 2540 key industry professionals, including buyers and retailers from North America and Europe. One marketing item in particular on ashmei’s stand made a big impact: The Woolmark Company’s ‘virtual reality (VR) farm tour’.
Visitors had the opportunity to wear VR headsets and be ‘transported’ to an Australian sheep farm to visually experience first-hand the source of Merino wool.
As well as buyers and retailers, viewers of the VR included representatives from media titles including Runner’s World – the largest and most influential media brand in running – which subsequently gave ashmei a good review of its Merino wool apparel in the title’s appraisal of The Running Event. Feedback from viewers of the VR was very positive and Mr Brooke said the innovation proved very useful in helping the company tell the provenance story of Merino wool.
AWI provides its ‘VR farm tour’ to a range of brands to use in their marketing – instore as well as at trade shows – as well as exhibiting it itself during the many trade shows it attends during the year, and at student seminars.
While VR is a very useful way of giving people, on the other side of the world, a sense of what an Australian wool-growing property is like, ashmei designer Lucy Reeve Smith has gone one step further and actually visited and worked on a wool-growing property in south Australia.
“Wool has always been a fibre that has fascinated me and one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed using in my design and textiles work,” Ms Reeve Smith said.
“I went to Australia to find out more about the production of wool, and what makes it so good. I got a very hands-on experience working on a Merino sheep station in the middle of the South Australian outback.
“My experiences there have left me feeling even more passionate about wool and keen to encourage its use and development within the clothing industry. I think it’s a fibre that has so much to offer, with a combination of properties that so many other fabrics can’t provide, while also being natural and biodegradable.
“That’s why I love being able to incorporate it into our designs at ashmei, knowing that we are providing our customers with innovative garments using the Merino fibre to the best of its ability.”