Don’t be fooled by the spring lambs and daffodils, there’s still a chilly nip in the air, and what better excuse than to rug-up in NZ-sourced and Warkworth-made fashion knitwear. The Knitting Establishment Ltd on Woodcocks Road has produced top-quality knitted apparel for the last 35 years. About four years ago, Simone Maddren and her business partner Benji Tipace bought the enterprise from her parents, Jan Kell and Gavin Coomber.
“We used to make fashion knitwear for New Zealand stores such as Glassons and Farmers, however, in the late nineties the market was flooded with cheap imports from China,” Simone said “We decided to change tack and create something uniquely kiwi.”
With tourist numbers on the rise and drawing on their fashion background, the company turned its attention to manufacturing prêt-à-porter garments. And demand is growing: after a generation of Lycra, spandex and stretch polyester, it seems that natural fibre crafts such as knitting and crocheting are making a comeback.
In a world increasingly dominated by multinational corporations, it’s refreshing to hear that The Knitting Establishment is a family affair, and by buying their wares we’re supporting our own. Benji and his brother, Chito, are qualified programmers, which involves running, repairing and writing patterns for the sophisticated electronic knitting machines. “We also have lots of mums and daughters and relatives working here,” Simone smiles.
“One of our major points of difference is that we offer a stockroom service. We send orders out on the same day that they come in. The garments are on the retailers’ racks the very next day.” Simone and Benji’s company supplies tourist outlets, and increasingly more domestic fashion stores, including local stockists Katya Maker, De Lovely, Sheepworld and Warkworth Menswear. Koru Knitwear is also found overseas in Germany, USA, Australia and Canada.
The yarn used for their Koru Knitwear label is a luxuriously downy blend of 50 per cent merino lambswool, 40 per cent brushtail possum and the highest quality Mulberry silk. “All of our yarn is made in Lower Hutt and our 100 per cent natural possum fibre is the highest quality blend on the market,” Simone explains.
Here’s an interesting fact: the NZ possum fur industry generates retail sales of between $100 and $150 million every year, with international tourists accounting for 85 per cent of total retail sales. What’s more, the industry employs around 1,500 people and also contributes to the conservation of our country’s flora and fauna through culling about two million possums annually.
Tips for brides: a lacy shawl or a versatile moss-stitch shrug (with or without fur trim) are perfect for flying away on a honeymoon; or as a going-away outfit, there’s the popular two-tone jacket with a textured cable pattern on the collar and cuff.
Luckily for our Junction readers, Koru Knitwear has extended its sale at the onsite factory shop until the end of September. Thinking ahead to Christmas, a gift with a Kiwiana flair would be just the ticket to send to friends and relatives in the northern hemisphere.
71 Woodcocks Road, Warkworth