Major Japanese suit retailer commits to Kiwi wool


Fifty sales representatives from one of Japan's largest suit retailers have spent the day on a Kiwi sheep farm.

They've been inspecting some of the merino sheep behind the company's premium clothing, and it's a market that's expanding.

"We show them where it comes from off the sheep [and] we have some sheep out the back, which they've seen," says Minototo's Closeburn Station's Tony Clarke.

"We have some shearing so they see how it's taken off them."

The visitors also got a tour around the Clarke family's high country station.

Mr Clarke has had a long connection with Japan, thanks to his skills as a black belt instructor in karate.

"I understand a little bit about the culture," he says.

"I've lived in Japan and fitted in there over the years with karate, and still do."

And for the past four years, he's been the exclusive supplier of the premium 15 micron wool used in Konaka's top suits and coats.

The fine merino wool in their jackets is used as a substitute for cashmere and is sourced entirely from Closeburn Station.

The company is Japan's third largest suit retailer, and is using New Zealand as their point of difference.

"We are using [New Zealand's] image for our product," says Kaoru Yamazaki, Konaka's senior managing director.

"And the Japanese consumers are very happy to purchase a product from a green country and a friendly country."

"Not only have they got the New Zealand Inc. story behind them, they've got a beautiful quality product that is giving them better colours," says Craig Smith, PGG Wrightson Wool's business development manager.

"It's giving them strength and all those types of things that they haven't seen before."

Growing demand for the Kiwi product encouraged the menswear chain to sign a new deal, committing to buy 40 percent more merino wool over the next year.