A Brief History of Sheep

A Brief History of Sheep (in New Zealand).

Sheep still out number people in New Zealand, but not quite so dramatically as they once did. The total sheep population is now estimated at 29 million, with the human population at roughly 4.5 million. In 1982, at the height of the sheep boom, there were 70.3 million sheep in New Zealand to only 3.18 million people. Since the 1980’s Sheep numbers have steadily reduced, mainly as there has been an increase in non-sheep related land use.   Cows, grapes and trees now use a lot of the land that was once the domain of sheep. Farmers are essentially businesses people, so with low wool prices on offer many farmers have looked for alternative and more profitable land uses.

scared of Moari

Dutch Explorer Abel Tasman

As far as Europeans are concerned it all started back on the 13th of December 1642 when Dutch explorer Abel Tasman sailed into Golden Bay, but was frightened off by the Maori and never went ashore. Apparently there was a bit of a fracas and Tasman decided not to become a casserole.

James Cook

English Map Maker that did not discover New Zealand (James Cook)

127 years later in October 1769 the English Navigator, Captain James Cook landed at Poverty Bay and set about mapping the islands. On a later Voyage to New Zealand Cook took along a few sheep, however these did not last long.   It wasn’t until the 1840’s that sheep were imported to New Zealand in significant numbers. It started with Merino’s from Australia, which were then crossbred with British breeds to create longer fibre suitable for worsted cloth. Roll on to today and New Zealand still has lots of white fluffy sheep, The main breed being Romney (almost half) with Perendales, Coopworth and Corriedale making up much of the remainder. The vast majority of New Zealand sheep have a white fleece, which has been purposely bred for interior textiles.   Merino sheep make up about 5% of the population. These are perfect for producing fine wool for apparel and tend to thrive in the South Island’s high country. New Zealand wool is of course, awesome. Each sheep produces about 5.4kg each of fluffy wool. There is still well over 100 million kilograms of wool available. Wool is however a tiny fraction of Earth’s textile fibre produced each year which is estimated at 85.5 million tons. New Zealand wool although approximately 11% of global wool production is less than 0.2% of global fibre production. We have a very niche fibre, which is reserved for very special products.


One of New Zealand’s many sheep.

Resilient Wool

One of the key principles of the Circular Economy is to build resilience.

If we build things that last longer then we delay chucking things away, and use less precious energy making and distributing new stuff.

The fact that 100% wool carpets keep their good looks longer than synthetics or blends of fibres is good news.   Also of course the fibre is rapidly renewable and so long is it is not cheapened with synthetic fibre it remains biodegradable.

Wool is off to a good start in providing manufacturers a sustainable and resilient ingredient.

Another important step is maintenance. Looking after carpets so that they last longer. The best thing to do is to vacuum regularly.

If you spill something then most stains can be removed with water, dilute the stain and mop up the liquid with a clean white cloth. Dab don’t rub!!

Some stains are more determined and for those you need chemicals. Not just any chemicals.   Eco-friendly products, non-toxic and not tested on animals, all in recyclable packaging.

We have built woolclean to help people who own carpets make them stay looking lovely. It’s coming soon to UK carpet retailers that care about their customers and their customer’s habitat.

WoolSafe approved,  Woolclean is recommended for use with our Laneve branded carpets.


woolclean carpet are kit

Woolclean – The Wools of New Zealand Carpet Care Kit.

The Renewable Colour Challenge for 7 Billion People.

7 Billion Cups of Coffee and no Sheep but its OK we can recycle the fishing nets…

Perhaps its time to step back and look at what we are doing?

Before man stared making synthetic fibre and dyes from oil there were far fewer people on the planet.  With only 1 billion people and very few of them in developed economies the world could easily produce enough natural fibre and pigment to satisfy demand.

Well not quite; Rich people had colour and poor people wore beige. The invention of synthetics dyes in 1856 by Perkins and then fibre almost 100 years later meant everyone could afford mass produced textiles. Luxury was affordable and become the norm.

perkins mauve

Perkins Mauve Oil Based Dye.

That was then, in the late 1800’s we though oil was going to last forever. It turns out that mass-producing synthetics was cheaper, but not sustainable.

It has been argued that we cannot go back to natural products, as there are now 7 billion people all wanting modern western lifestyles.

There is simply not enough planet earth to provide natural fibre and colour for 7 billion worthy citizens.

Apparently It is OK to use vast areas of countryside and cheap labour to grow luxury drinks like coffee, but it is not OK to use vast land areas to grow pigments or cotton from plants.   Food takes priority, even if its coffee, tea and cocoa.

This to me sounds like an argument to prolong our addiction to man-made fibre.

Oil based industries need to drive demand so they tell us they are saving the world, giving us a lifestyle that we otherwise could not afford. Unfortunately they have a point.

The challenge in 1856 was to create colour for the masses, which Perkins accidentally solved while trying to make a vaccine.   The challenge now is to create a circular economy and create textiles and colour from rapidly renewable materials.

 The challenge is 7 times greater and 7 times more urgent than it was in 1857.

Where do we begin?   We begin small, niche and high-end.  Perhaps natural fibre and natural colour can only be produced in small quantities, for wealthy people who want something real.   Coffee and chocolate started niche too, but now millions of people around the world earn their livelihood by producing a luxury product that nobody actually needs.

We don’t save the world by using a recycled cup.  We save the world by not using the cup in the 1st place.  Use a ceramic cup and use it 1000 times,  not an oil based cup that’s used once and might be recycled.   Same goes for textiles and carpets,  Wool carpets last longer and are 100% renewable.  Where did your plastic carpet come from?  Is the synthetic fibre company going to plant a new dinosaur for every litre of oil they use?  Maybe they will make it from a plastic fishing net which also never should have existed in the 1st place.   Make those nets from renewable fibres that break down in water and there is no problem to solve.

Lets take a step back and stop creating problems to solve so we look less bad in our marketing propaganda.  Lets just plan to be naturally good.

Coffee Production.

Coffee Production.

All That is Gold Does Not Glitter

The Midas Rug has been a long time coming, but its finally here. The world’s 1st hand knotted rug coloured with particles of pure gold. Aulana uses pure wool and pure gold – no dyes at all, to create a range of Purples, Pinks and Greys.

The Aulana Midas Rug

The Midas Rug – Photograph by Marek Sikora

Wools of New Zealand, have introduced Aulana, a new luxury brand in which cutting edge science, wool and pure gold, combine to produce the ultimate exclusive textiles. The first Aulana product is the Midas Rug, a unique hand knotted rug. Ancient chemistry combines with modern science to create colours without the use of dyes. Fine particles of pure gold shift light into delicate shades of grey, pink and purple. The scientific process is called ‘localised surface plasman resonance’ . To understand this, think gothic cathedrals and their stained glass windows, which are often red in apparent colour – when, in reality, they are gold dissolved in the glass.

Mias Rug

Designed by SoFarSoNear and woven by Obeetee.

The Midas Rug, designed by SoFarSoNear of Milan and on display in their London showroom, is created to illustrate luxury and opulence, the rug does not glitter with gold, but rather uses gold to interrupt light and create elegant soft hues. Aulana is about creating an heirloom. Its products won’t be gold in colour, but gold is in there creating the hues that are visible. And because it is gold particles it is permanent, so, like cathedral windows, Aulana colours will never fade, and our ancestors can inherit an Aulana rug centuries from now and the colour will be just as rich.

Aulana Midas Rug

The Midas Rug from above.

Prof. Jom Johnston

Professor Jim Johnston – co inventor of Aulana. Photograph by Marek Sikora, tweaks by me.

Make Sustainability Sexy.

How do we make sustainability sexy? That does not mean how do we sexualise green issues. What I mean to ask is..

“How to we market sustainability to the Me generation?”

How do we draw in a generation that puts community and family 2nd to themselves.   Part of the answer is that we have to make a story that is cool and make it easy and fun to join in, to be part of a tribe that is awesome.

The ecological and social elements of products are important for many consumers, but are still down the list of priorities below style, quality and price. Generation me just wants to know this makes them cool. It blends them into their tribe.

Sustainability has to be positioned to meet a people’s needs.    The marketing of sustainability must be positive and draw people into something neat.

“Buy this or the polar bear drowns” is less effective than “I’m saving dolphins and you can too”.

A brilliant example of positive sustainability messaging is the Camira Fabrics / Wools of New Zealand Dolphin Campaign.

Wools of New Zealand grow eco-friendly Laneve wool in a way that protects the NZ waterways where the Hectors Dolphin lives.   Camira convert our Laneve wool into their very beautiful Blazer upholstery fabric, and both companies use a portion of the proceeds to fund research by the New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust which helps scientist understand how to better protect the dolphins habitat.

Interior designers can buy the fabric and help us save the dolphins.   “We are saving dolphins and you can join us.”

This post is not an argument for Corporate Social Responsibility; this post is about how we communicate our green credentials. It is more powerful to lead people to your product with positive messages than it is to say “This product contains less nasty stuff”

Start something social that people can feel a part of. Don’t alienate people and point out their bad habits. It really boils down to basic psychology – Carrot wins out over stick.

hectors dolphins

Hectors Dolphins at play. Image courtesy New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust.


I have just recently discovered homify, an on-line image gallery which is free to browse and free to upload interiors images to, providing the quality is good.

“Andrew” called our office to say he had spotted our Laneve Style Gallery and thought our images were great, would be consider uploading them to homify.   Once we moved past the fact that Andrew was Australian we thought OK so we did..

It’s on the other side of this button..


We love being able to promote brilliant, quality carpets made from wool that we produced.

Screenshot from WNZ's homily page

Screenshot from WNZ’s homify page

Talking Wool CPD

This month Wools of New Zealand ran its very first Continued Professional Development (CPD) seminar for members of the Society of British International Design (SBID) in London.


Me talking wool. – Image courtesy Marek Sikora – Click for more.

For interior designers to stay relevant they need to keep learning about the materials they specify in human habitats and they have to do this to stay accredited to professional organisations like SBID.

Over a glass of New Zealand wine, and with London as a backdrop we went to the next step in influencing, influential people to specify Kiwi wool.

In two hours we grabbed the attention of some of London’s best architects and designers and focused their attention on wool. We followed up with a book about our New Zealand wool and we made sure everyone took home a catalogue that featured Laneve products (so these people can buy our wool)

The presentation is rich in lifestyle imagery and messages around the benefits of New Zealand wool to the environment and the human habitat. There was the occasional sheep picture too. The question and answer session was lively so we had people engaged and we got people thinking.

This cost time and money, but its free for SBID members to attend.   We do this because ultimately architects and interior designers are our customers. These are the people that demand style, innovation, integrity, provenance and sustainability.   Now a handful of these people are thinking a little bit more about using wool.

London from NZ House

The view outside was amazing – click for more..