The stylish shirt with science pedigree

The development of a unique merino wool fabric by AgResearch scientists has allowed a small New Zealand apparel company to create a niche product to market globally online.

The stylish OneBlackShirt tailored shirts are made of a unique merino wool fabric developed by AgResearch for Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) wool in 2005 -2006.

The fabric retains all the beneficial properties of traditional wool fabrics in a lightweight construction with high natural stretch and a lively drape. It’s based on a novel weavable singles yarn production method that spins the yarn into a special structure that isn’t hairy and where the fibres are particularly well interlocked. This process requires a simple attachment to existing worsted spinning machines. The yarn is woven in a tight construction, and the woven fabric is then given a special worsted finish. The fabric can be machine-washed and tumble-dried without shrinkage. This shrink resistant behaviour is created purely in the mechanical processing of the fibre, yarn and fabric, unlike conventional methods which use chemical treatments such as chlorine. There are significant environmental and economic benefits.

The technology was transferred overseas but the shirts are now being made and sold back in New Zealand.

An established apparel company, Parisian, based in Auckland is marketing the shirts online (www.oneblackshirt.co.nz) and they’ve been featured in Air New Zealand’s inflight Kia Ora magazine as well as Fashion Quarterly magazine.

The potential of the fabric in the fashion and clothing industry was immense but it’s taken until now for the product to be available here in New Zealand. This fabric technology was showcased in the AgResearch runway shows at the 2008 and 2010 New Zealand Fashion Weeks in Auckland.

“It’s a beautiful fabric and wonderful to see a New Zealand company pick up this technology,” says Surinder Tandon, a Senior Scientist in AgResearch’s Textiles Team at Lincoln.

AgResearch provided support to OneBlackShirt for sourcing the fabric and for checking the performance of both the fabric and shirts.

John Crompton, the Managing Director of Parisian says people are often surprised the shirt is made of 100% wool.

“It’s super fine and unless you’re an expert it doesn’t appear to look or feel like wool. And what’s really special is that for the first time consumers can get a merino product that doesn’t look like something you would wear tramping. So, while you get all the wonderful attributes of a merino, it comes in the form of a traditionally tailored shirt.”

Benefit to New Zealand

OneBlackShirt sells for NZ$225, which is a premium price compared to competing ready-made cotton shirts that sell for up to NZ$160 in the New Zealand market. OneBlackShirt illustrates that shirt fabric is another premium market for fine wool beyond traditional markets such as men’s suits and more recent developments such as high-quality outdoor clothing.