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A wool fabric invention from AgResearch is headed to market, with a deal signed to commercialise the technology, according to the Sunday Herald.

Apparel company BGI Developments has picked up the technology and is talking to a number of New Zealand-based clothing exporters about using it.

BGI Developments is backed by chartered accountant and merino babywear exporter Robyn George-Neich and Canterbury apparel industry veteran Brent Gregory.

They are preparing samples for interested manufacturers, George-Neich said.

At last year’s New Zealand Fashion Week, the Canterbury-based research institute showcased innovations in high-end wool fabrics, including a unique wool dyeing process. The technique allows blocks of colour, graphics such as logos and other effects to be printed into the wool without having to put a layer of material on the surface.

“It enables you to get these interesting colour effects, almost like a print-type effect, through a single set dyeing process. So you can get two colours on to the fabric in one dyeing process,” textile science and technology team leader Stewart Collie said.

It was a world first as far as AgResearch was aware.

“The graphic will last as long as the garment now. And when you stretch the fabric the graphic doesn’t pucker or break down like the plastic-type overlay stuff does, and the garment feels more comfortable.”

While they were initially focusing on wool clothes, the technology worked on all natural fibres and had implications for all kinds of textiles.

It presented great branding opportunities for companies wanting to imprint their logo into a fabric, for example.

Collie said AgResearch was also working on readying other innovations to commercialise.

The next one it hoped would be picked up by the market was an anti-bacterial technology that enhanced wool’s natural odour-retardant properties.

AgResearch presented the technologies in the AgResearch Fashion Collection runway show last year, when 10 designers, including Annah Stretton and Stitch Ministry, produced a range of garments using the fabrics.

The research institute is still hoping to sell a stab- and flame-resistant wool fabric, which was launched to much fanfare at Fashion Week in 2007.

AgResearch had had challenges commercialising this product, Collie said – not least the demise of outdoor apparel manufacturer Line 7 which had picked up the rights to manufacture an initial run of garments using the fabric.

Another area AgResearch is working in is making wool fabrics that help move moisture away from the skin to provide better comfort in sportswear and next-to-skin clothing.

Given New Zealand’s large production of strong wool, a lot of the institute’s research into the fibre is around interior textiles, such as improving the durability and colour fastness of carpet.

Wool has been at the fringes of efforts by similar overseas research institutes.

“To be a research institute that has a focus on wool textiles, and particularly with our expertise in the coarser wool, that’s probably almost a unique capability worldwide,” Collie said.

— Source: Sunday Herald

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