21 Nov 2017

New Zealand wool used to create yoga mats

11:25 am on 21 November 2017

A brand new company called Fifth Breath has launched a yoga mat made entirely out of New Zealand wool that is being sold to top end consumers in Europe and the UK.

Fifth Breath co-founders Dana McKenzi and Irina Arya.

Fifth Breath co-founders Dana McKenzi and Irina Arya. Photo: Supplied

Sheep farmers have been struggling with rock bottom prices because the market for cross bred wool in New Zealand slumped after China cut its orders in half due to a change in fashion to finer fibres, such as merino.

But for engineer and co-founder Dana McKenzie cross bred wool was the perfect answer, and one that came to her during a yoga session.

"The smell of the PVC mats, and the whole synthetic feeling - you're aiming to be in the zone in a very 'zen' environment ... yet you have all these synthetic props to deal with."

The more Ms McKenzie thought about it, the more it didn't seem right to be using plastic equipment.

"You're dealing with things that harm the planet when they get made and when they get disposed of, so this kind of one clear moment in my day said 'I actually think wool can do this'."

Co-founders Ms McKenzie and Irina Arya worked for over a year to develop the design and turn the wool into a cushioning surface with a non-toxic coating added in key places for grip.

Ms McKenzie admits that she was naive in thinking that because New Zealand has many sheep it would be easy to navigate the wool industry.

"I hadn't realised how much the secondary processing in New Zealand had been discontinued ... like all the felting here.

"That made it hard because basically while the wool is being shorn and scoured here the rest of it is being done elsewhere."

The two women searched for a suitable manufacturer in New Zealand, but had no luck and so took the wool and the design to Germany where the yoga mats are now being manufactured and stored.

"The whole world has this misconception that in New Zealand we should be able to do everything that has to do with wool, but actually secondary processing is not that common here, or advanced."

Fifth Breath is now selling their yoga mats all around the world.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs