Red deer fibre socks $1700/pair

Socks made with New Zealand red deer fibre are selling in London for the equivalent of just over $NZ1700. Photo supplied.
Socks made with New Zealand red deer fibre are selling in London for the equivalent of just over $NZ1700. Photo supplied.
Forget holiday sales. How about a pair of socks this retail season, made from the fibre of Rudolph's second cousins? But be warned, the price tag is ''fairly deer''.

Tauranga-based company Douglas Creek has provided the fibre for some of the world's most expensive socks.

A limited production run of 100 pairs of socks was launched this month by luxury men's footwear and accessories brand Harrys of London, retailing for the hefty sum of £895 ($NZ1713).

The Cervelt fibre, from which the socks are made, is the superfine down fibre of the New Zealand red deer, some of which the company sourced from Otago. It took 12 years to bring to market, managing director Bert McGhee said.

After doing a lot of tests, it was decided it was ''worth a venture'' and the company developed the equipment necessary to process the fibre.

With only about 20g of fibre collected from each deer, the down of 40 red deer was needed to make a man's overcoat.

The fibre had proven to be ''extraordinary'', Mr McGhee said. He has a background in mechanical engineering.

It could be spun into very fine counts of woollen yarn which had a broad application in men's and women's knitwear, light woven fabrics and accessories. It could also be used as a textile for luxury furnishings.

It was much finer than cashmere and stronger and more durable. It also could be dyed almost any colour, which set it apart from other luxury natural fibres, like vicuna, he said.

The project was ''a bit more difficult'' than had initially been anticipated, as they had to figure out how to collect and separate the fibre from the coarse outer hair, and make it commercial, but it was not in his nature to ''give up too easily'', he said.

Asked why he had persevered for so long with the project, Mr McGhee said: ''Because this, as far as I'm concerned, is the best fibre in the world''.

Most of the fibre was sourced from the South Island. New Zealand red deer were given to the Otago province by the Earl of Dalhousie in 1870, from his estate in Invermark, Scotland.

The animals of the Otago red deer herd were possibly the only surviving gene pool of pure stock of the subspecies, Cervus Elaphus, Scoticus, in the world.

While Cervelt was used in luxury European fashion houses, like LVMH, Hermes and Giorgio Armani, it was the first time the fibre had been used in socks.

Being used in socks showed how strong the fibre was. He was excited about the potential in Asia for the fibre, saying that was the company's next target.

Deer Industry New Zealand producer manager Tony Pearse welcomed the innovation, saying the concept had been around a few years and he was thrilled somebody had been able to take it to the market.

''I can't imagine it's been an easy process,'' he said.

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