Trust head promotes wool with a passion

Prince Charles and Campaign For Wool New Zealand Trust chairwoman Philippa Wright with pupils...
Prince Charles and Campaign For Wool New Zealand Trust chairwoman Philippa Wright with pupils from Tawa Intermediate School. Photo supplied.
Wool is a fibre that ''easily ticks all the boxes''.

What now needed to happen was a concerted effort on getting that message out to discerning consumers, Campaign For Wool New Zealand Trust chairwoman Philippa Wright said.

Ms Wright, who is boss of Waipukurau-based woolbroker Wright Wool, has been involved with Campaign for Wool since its inception in 2010.

The initiative is a global information and education campaign led by Prince Charles. It is aimed at creating demand for wool by raising awareness of its attributes and creating excitement about the fibre.

It works to engage consumers through activities and media, centred on the innovative use of wool in interiors, architecture, fashion and design.

Ms Wright recently met Prince Charles in Wellington when he shared his passion for wool with a group of year 8 pupils from Tawa Intermediate School, while on a visit to Tawa College.

Joined by Ms Wright and PGG Wrightson Wool general manager Cedric Bayly, he stepped into The Wool Shed, a converted shipping container, for a sneak preview of the innovative and mobile world of wool.

The Wool Shed, part of the Wool in Schools project, aimed at spurring the curiosity of the next generation and linking their discoveries to curriculum and/or homework activity.

It was the second time Ms Wright had met Prince Charles and she was impressed with his great sense of humour.

Campaign for Wool was for the good of the whole industry, and that meant from the grower to the consumer. Creating demand through consumer awareness would, in turn, create better returns for farmers, she said.

It was non-commercial and non-political and Ms Wright believed it was ''really working''. The biggest issue had been funding and it now had support from 80% of wool growers, through the merchants and brokers, and she was proud of what had been achieved.

There were three programmes in place as part of the New Zealand Campaign For Wool initiative, including Wool in Schools, which has PGG Wrightson Wool as its partner.

The Wool Shed would now be piloted at a Wellington school before being transported around the country to schools keen to host it.

A project was coming up in February, with three leading New Zealand architects mentoring three university design graduates each.

They would spend three days with them on Ngamatea Station, where they would be ''immersed'' in wool. The graduates would then come out with their own interpretation of how wool could be used better and differently.

In the United States, a Continuing Education Unit keynote speaker had been secured who was a high-end rug maker and a huge supporter of New Zealand wool.

She was speaking to groups of interior designers and architects, teaching them about the attributes of wool.

Ten years ago, Ms Wright said she and many of her colleagues were getting to the stage where they were trying to find ways to get out of the wool industry as they were ''so despondent'', as were many farmers.

For her personally, and also some of her peers, Campaign For Wool had given them ''hope back'' and inspired them to understand they were in an industry they should be proud of and ''shout about''. It had definitely brought her passion back for the industry, she said.

''We're handling a product that's good for the economy, good for the environment and good for everybody,'' she said.

Ms Wright was brought up in Waimate where her father was a private wool buyer. Wool was part of her upbringing ''without really being aware of it'' and, growing up, she did not have anything to do with his business.

But after leaving school and filling in time, supposedly before going to college, she started working as a shedhand in the Mackenzie district and ended up wool classing. She never left the industry and, after moving to Hawkes Bay, she became immersed in the brokering system.

She was enjoying having an ability to give back to the industry and felt strongly about bringing in younger people. The industry had to be exciting to entice them, she said.

Those in the small industry in New Zealand were good friends, even when in competition. Most had worked with each other at some stage.

Ms Wright remained optimistic about the future of the wool industry, saying there was a real resurgence globally over sustainability and environmental concerns.

''We just happen to have one of those fibres that just ticks all the boxes. It's a fabulous natural fibre.''

But it would take patience and the most important thing was to target high-end users, she said.

 

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