Ever the toast of chic and environmentally conscious merino-lovers, Untouched World continues to excel in its mission to bring a sustainable ethos and luxury style to those who wish to look fabulous, but go easy on the planet.
Their new spring/summer 18/19 collection is in stores now, and true to form, the designs are beautifully simple and made from luxurious fabrics and fibres that are easy on the earth. The season offers beautiful linens, organic cotton tees, pants and dresses, along with lightweight, airy summer knits in merino and recycled organic cotton. Light, translucent soybean shirts, made from the part of the soybean left over in processing, are affectionately referred to as vegetable cashmere due to their silky soft handle.
New to the collection are woollen shoes created in collaboration with Baabuk, while a carefully curated collection of homeware and accessories made by talented local artisans complements the range. Committed to ‘walking the walk’ rather than simply ‘talking the talk’, Untouched World has partnered with the Mahatma Gandhi Institute to go global with the great work of the Untouched World Foundation’s “Leadership for a Sustainable Future” programmes.
Leadership begins at the top at Untouched World, with owner Peri Drysdale receiving well-deserved recognition for her lifetime commitment to entrepreneurship at the recent Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards 2018.
Following on from the opening of their new concept store in Wellington earlier this year, another new Untouched World store opens in Wanaka next month.
A less is more approach isn’t one traditionally taken by a successful fashion label, but then Untouched World founder Peri Drysdale isn’t one to play by the rules. Doing things differently is, after all, what has cemented her place in the upper echelons of entrepreneurial royalty.
Metropol talks to Peri about her recent achievements and striking a sartorial chord.
How does it feel to have been recognised at such a high level, as one of the 2018 Company of Women Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame Inductees?
It was humbling to be recognised amongst such a group of enormously courageous and successful NZ women. However, I am only the face of our company and our success is the result of incredible input from amazing people I have had working alongside me now and in the past, and with fantastic family input and support.
Can you take us back to the start of Untouched World, what sparked the idea for the business?
As I travelled around the world selling our knitwear I had become extremely concerned about the trajectory the planet was on. I could see environmental degradation going on from visit to visit. Government and business talk the world over was all about GDP and financial bottom line. I worried about what could one person, one company could do. The problem was so big, but I came to the conclusion that we had to do something about it. So, long story short, we decided to create a sustainable lifestyle fashion brand.
I wanted a brand that would model a new way of doing business, that would highlight that style and quality could be achieved without pollution to water and air, filling landfills or treating workers poorly. Back in those days sustainable clothing had a hemp sack reputation, but I wanted to reach people who were in a position of influence to really make a change. So we had to create luxurious, high quality products that would appeal to that market. I also wanted a brand that would give back, put its money where its mouth is and wanted a project to coalesce the stakeholders and get them thinking about what was happening to the planet. So, Untouched World was born – with the bold vision to use fashion as a vehicle to champion what is possible for our planet and its people.
Why do you think the business story of Untouched World struck such a chord and, as a result, has become such an incredible success?
Untouched World is a brand of enormous depth, the kite logo and brand story has an incredible resonance with people all over the world. It is creative, different and has a great energy. People talk about finding Untouched World inspiring. The fact that we built the brand on a sustainable model, though ahead of its time from a commercial point of view, meant that we have been global leaders in this space, so have always had highly engaged followers. Strangely after nearly two decades, Untouched World still feels fresh and ‘new’ to me.
You are one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs, what has been the winning formula for you – hard work, dedication, passion, a great product?
Ha ha! All of the above! I think stickability; an utter belief in what you are doing and being prepared to do things differently are key.
What has been some of the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Early on, it was to not go into partnership with someone else. We looked at partnerships a few times. I was given the sound advice that a partner who shared the same motivation and goals during a start-up phase, wouldn’t necessarily share the same vision in years to come, which could ultimately result in more effort going into running the partnership than the business. Early on it is tempting to take partners on as you don’t know what you are doing. Keeping control has meant we have been able to stick to the values that underpin the business, the raison d’etre that gets me up in the morning.
What’s the best part about what you do?
Pretty much everything! I love it all. I love the people – our team, our customers, our suppliers, our foundation team. I love the design and creative process as well as production. I wake up and look forward to another day.
At face value, a less is more approach seems at odds with the very basis of a capitalist economy and, in particular, a commercial fashion brand.
Boldly bucking the fast fashion trend, Untouched World is about beautiful, understated designs. With 97 percent of the range made in New Zealand, each piece is carefully crafted in timeless designs that match the quality.
At the heart of this label is an ethos of sustainability, epitomised by the new Autumn/Winter 18 Collection, which features clever new innovations that deliver on style and sustainability.
The new Voyage capsule mixes luxurious milled wool and merino knit with a light, water resistant outer and Ecodown fill made from recycled PET bottles. Offering a fresh take on the popular puffer jacket, the new Ecopossum™ Puffer has organic cotton lining and Ecodown fill. The result is a warm, lightweight jacket that uses up to 10 post-consumer plastic bottles.
Another brilliant addition is their pure organic cotton jeans. Made from fabric from one of the world’s most sustainable denim mills, these consciously made jeans will end the hunt for the perfect fit.
Well known for knits, this season doesn’t disappoint, with beautiful textured sweaters, effortless wraps and cosy felted jackets offering luxurious options in merino, possum and cashmere blends.
Complementing the clothing is a beautifully curated range of luxurious homeware, jewellery and gift lines made by local and international artisans, along with a not-for-profit collection that supports two causes the company is passionate about; helping those less fortunate achieve freedom, and educating and inspiring change in our young people, so they can create a more sustainable future.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge,” Albert Einstein
Creativity can be an elusive beast at times. Yes some have been known to exchange band-width for tricks of the trade, of which digital page after page can be discovered when writer’s block has well and truly taken hold however, this is by no means fool proof.
Sometimes, no matter how much you persevere, it seems inspiration has completely flown the nest and no manner of coaxing will get her back.
Though I’m not sure what excuses I have, after all, we’re certainly not short of inspiration on a local level. Cantabrians have been the creators of world-changing concepts, creations and contraptions and, although the ability to innovate and think outside the square isn’t by any means limited to Christchurch, our city’s creative core is certainly a strong example of the kind of clever us Kiwis are truly capable of.
Although not new by any stretch, having been founded in 1995 – with a parent company which is even older still – Untouched World is a leading example of this innovative thinking.
From a sheep farming family in Canterbury, founder Peri Drysdale has created a brand which is turning heads on a global stage. By focussing on innovative blends of fibres such as merino, possum fur, silk and cashmere, Peri is now one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs, with the sustainability frontrunner recently being inducted into the New Zealand Hall of Fame.
But it’s far from the only example. Businesses both big and small are making their mark on the city. Metropol continues its 20-year tradition of showcasing the very best of Canterbury, from the intangible strength of spirit of its inhabitants to exceptional innovation in business, building and the vision our leaders have for the city’s future.
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