There’s something about natural fibre.  My dad used to tell me that wool and silk were the best materials to wear camping, sailing and skiing.  At the time, I despised itch from wool, and imagining myself camping in a Marilyn Monroe-esque silk neglige made me giggle.  Who knew there was wool that is actually soft, light and funky in colour?  The new Ice Breaker Touch Lab in Vancouver’s West 4th area (the mecca for both skiwear and maternity fashion) is a welcome addition for West Coast’s nature-loving families.  With everything from running attire to undergarments to sporty clothes, the 100% wool clothing doesn’t allow bacteria to latch onto the fibre like synthetic counterparts do.  (Read: You don’t stink at après ski, and new moms don’t need to bother changing clothes for a while.  There’s no time for that anyway).

New Zealand is over 12,000 kilometers from Vancouver, so the Icebreaker team has brought the Southern Alps and the merino sheep to Western Canada through fantastic imagery in the store. Customers can see beautiful images of New Zealand, and through the company’s Baacode traceability program, meet the farmers tended the flocks that grew the fibre in the apparel.  It’s pretty cool.  Since many Vancouverites haven’t experienced the wonders of silky soft merino wool, the TouchLab features an area where shoppers can dip their hands into raw merino. The store also shows the Kiwi brand’s sense of humor, with many secret touches, such as some racy activities hidden in the themed dressing rooms where you can “Get It On.”

Icebreaker Clothing

Launched in 1994, Icebreaker was the first company in the world to develop wool adventure apparel, a merino fibre layering system for the outdoors, starting with its Bodyfit baselayer, ideal for Vancouver weather. There are now 25 to 30 distinct pure merino fabrics in the Icebreaker system, covering underwear, mid layer, and outerwear.  Icebreaker is sold in more than 2,000 stores in 37 countries throughout Europe, Asia, Australasia and North America. Based in Wellington, New Zealand, Icebreaker uses only pure merino hand-picked from 140 high country stations in the country’s Southern Alps to create edgy outdoor clothing that combines nature’s work with human technology and design.

Ethical Commitment

The company was the first outdoor adventure apparel company in the world to source merino directly from growers, a system it began in 1997.  Icebreaker is committed to sustainability, ethical manufacturing and animal welfare. In 2008, the company launched “Icebreaker Baacode,” a pioneering supply chain transparency and traceability program. Each Icebreaker includes a unique Baacode, which enables customers to trace the garment online from rearing the sheep through to each stage of the supply chain process.

We’ve been trying the baselayer skiwear as well as a sporty dress.  Not only is our skiing improving dramatically (and looking thinner without the bulk under the skisuit) but the dress has garnered lots of whistles from construction sites.  Nice.

– Jill Amery is a sucker for beautiful fabric.