Close working relationship suits growers to a tee

A bunch of fine-wool growers will be well suited for a modelling career should they ever choose to trade in their merino sheep.

Yesterday, the farmers gathered at Happy Valley Station, near Bannockburn, to show off their new bespoke suits provided by Japanese suit maker Nikke Group.

While the beautifully tailored garments might have looked a little unusual among the rural surroundings, their new owners were thrilled with the gesture — and their new threads.

Nikke Group produces high-end suits from super-fine merino fibre sourced exclusively from New Zealand.

Late last year, executives from the textile and clothing manufacturer visited to see first-hand where their fibre came from.

During their visit, the executives were hosted by four grower families in Central Otago and Wakatipu, who showed them how they produced the fibre.

To show their appreciation for their hospitality, Nikke Group gave each grower a bolt of cloth, which was made into a suit.

Cecil Peak Station manager Philip Rive described the gesture as "unexpected but bloody awesome".

Passionate about the fibre, which he had grown up with and had been involved with all his life, Mr Rive was delighted to host the Japanese contingent.

Duncan Henderson models his bespoke suit at Happy Valley Station, near Bannockburn, watched by...
Duncan Henderson models his bespoke suit at Happy Valley Station, near Bannockburn, watched by Brett and John Sanders, Nicholas Bennett and Philip Rive. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Yesterday was his suit’s first outing and he hoped it would get an airing at a few weddings, "if I get invited to a wedding — or a funeral, but you don’t really get invited to a funeral," he quipped.

New Zealand Merino Company general manager supply, innovation and logistics Mike Hargadon said the company’s close relationship between growers and companies like Nikke Group gave access to valuable consumer insights and premium consumers wanted to know  their products were being produced sustainably and ethically.

"With this information, our growers have invested heavily in their farming operations, to ensure that they meet strict standards, dedicated to positive environmental and animal welfare outcomes. They’re a part of what we believe to be a world-leading ethical wool brand," Mr Hargadon said.

When the visitors walked into the woolshed at Matangi Station, they disappeared "straight to the wool", John Sanders said.

His son Brett Sanders said such relationships tied up the whole chain back from consumer to producer. In an era where it was all about traceability and sustainability, which went right back to what growers did on farm, Nikke Group could "show the world how good New Zealand was at doing that sort of thing", he said.

Bruce Bennett, from Shirlmar Station, gave the suit to his son Nicholas, who had already managed to wear it to a few weddings.

When Duncan Henderson’s suit arrived at Happy Valley Station, it coincided with shearing, so he took it to the woolshed and told the shearing gang "this is what that wool there turned out to be".

At Happy Valley Station, they had taken the visitors out the back of the property and given them morning tea at a curling dam.

Ewes and lambs were in view and they also had an opportunity to learn some history, as there were old gold workings in the area. Their cameras were "going all the time", Mr Henderson said.

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