31 Jan 2022

Southland fashion business produced entirely in New Zealand

From Lately, 10:35 pm on 31 January 2022

A new jersey range is being launched this weekend adding style and value to New Zealand's wool industry.

Kate Macdonald, owner of Davaar & Co

Kate Macdonald, owner of Davaar & Co Photo: supplied

This Saturday, Kate MacDonald will launch her business Davaar & Co, taking wool from her family property and producing homespun-style woollen jerseys. The entire product range is being manufactured in New Zealand.

Kate Macdonald grew up on Davaar Station, a 1100ha sheep and beef property that has been farmed by her family since 1915.

After her travel plans were cancelled in 2020 she decided to use her qualifications to add value to their wool.

Some of her products are based on her mother’s knitting patterns, other styles are more modern and more of a dress-up type of jumper. All are made from stronger wool than merino, she says.

“The wool that we used is are all from Davaar stations, they’re all from our farm. So, all ewe wool and the micron is about 36-to-37 micron," she says.

“We’re very proud of how they’ve turned out – they’re not too itchy on the skin and obviously all made in New Zealand. That’s very close to my heart – every step has been manufactured here. I did look offshore when I originally started this two years ago, but I think bang at the start of a pandemic, I think the New Zealand tagline has never been more important really.”

Keeping manufacturing in New Zealand has avoided shipping costs and freight headaches.

The four main colours of the jerseys have been kept neutral, appealing to a wider range of potential shoppers and reflecting where these have been made.

“Obviously we’re from Southland so we’ve got tussocks and darker colours with the mountains and then a lot snow in the winter," MacDonald says.

“So, I’ve gone for four colours. One of them is called ‘snow’ which is a natural dyed colour, quite creamy. Another one is ‘tussock’, more of a brown-caramel colour, then a ‘bark’ colour, which is dark brown, then ‘granite’, which is quite popular among people that I’ve shown. That’s more flacky and probably quite close to the original home spun.”

The jerseys are manufactured in Dunedin by Otago Knitwear. She says the company understood her vision and ran with it perfectly from the beginning.

“They’re all machine knitted in a five-gauge machine and there’s only a couple of those in the country, so I’m very lucky that they’re reasonably close to home so I can just pop up there when I need to. It’s only a three-hour drive.”

The items are also knitted together after the individual segments are made using a sewing machine.

The size ranges are from extra small to triple large, offering something of almost everyone.

“I think it’s important to be size-inclusive in this era,” she says.

Some people like their jerseys a little oversized for comfort, while others enjoy sporting a perfect cut. “There are some styles in there that are probably suited to a more tighter fit,” MacDonald says.

She says the range is exciting and the product marketing looks great. Locals had been used as models and her family farm acted as a backdrop in material.

“We’ve actually just finished our final photoshoot today, which was really exciting. One out on the farm.”

Some products are unisex, while others are designed to compliment the shape of men and women respectively.

With the renaissance of wool products MacDonald has entered the market at an opportune time, even though Covid-19 upheavals and delays had frustrated her plans.

“It’s really good timing and I’m very lucky in that regard. I was obviously wanting to launch this last year, but Covid ruined those plans with the recent lockdown. The dyers up in Wellington they obviously couldn’t do all of my work for me.”

If it hadn't been for Covid-19 travel restrictions she would have moved abroad and travelled.

“I wouldn’t have been doing this if Covid hadn’t happened, I’d be overseas. It’s funny who things work sometimes.”