Earlier this year, the world found itself in a peculiar place, global supply chains were rocked and skewed supply of products across borders. What has been made clear from the COVID-19 pandemic is that many businesses are connected by an world wide web of global supply chains. From this pandemic, Forbes stated businesses will have started to question whether they should move inside their borders for the manufacturing of their goods, which may come at a cost but have some surprising benefits too.
Kapeka is and has always been 100% made in New Zealand, it isn't always easy however, it does come with large benefits. As the customer, you too get these benefits of buying and wearing local.
We spoke with Bridget Morgan, our head designer based from the beautiful island, Waiheke, who has worked in the New Zealand textiles industry for decades. We have an open conversation with her on the challenges, benefits and rewards she sees and experiences with being locally made here in New Zealand.
Bridget, what would you say from your experience are the biggest challenges that come with the Made in New Zealand tag?
An obvious challenge would be maintaining our competitiveness in the market -
low wages and cheap materials of imported clothing really challenge us. However, we can work against this by having incomparable quality; New Zealand knitwear and clothing manufacturing has some of the best technology in the world.
We have whole garment technology so on many garments there is minimal amount of hand work and it produces a more comfortable, modern garment. However, these machines require years of training to operate.
We also use computerised systems to prototype garments and make patterns which, again a high level of skill is required. Many of these teams operating these machines have specialised degrees & qualifications.
It is important for New Zealand to keep these skills here and to continue pushing the technology to keep us leading the way.
In contrast many of the overseas manufacturers rely on old machines and use cheap labour to make garments.
It's inevitably difficult to be competitive in price because of the low wages and cheap materials of imported clothing mentioned earlier. Major discounting (such as 50% off) just isn't financially feasible for us, unlike other brands - this is where it is important for us to create timeless pieces, so that by next season, it isn't out-of-date or out-of-fashion so there is no need to discount.
What do you see are the key benefits that Kapeka and the end customer gets from being locally made in New Zealand?
Keeping our fibre compositions natural using New Zealand's superb natural fibres to make quality crafted knitwear is a great benefit to both Kapeka and the wearer. We have an inspirational story with the beauty of the materials grown on our land to the end product of a high quality natural fashion garment all happening here in New Zealand, this story is unique (especially as more brands are moving offshore).
Over 1,000 people are involved to produce Kapeka knitwear & clothing here in New Zealand. Many of these people have years of experience. We need to keep this expertise alive in NZ otherwise it gets lost forever. Some of our manufacturers have been established for over 100 years. This is decades of craftsmanship that has developed.
We can add value to our fibres here in NZ & then they are enjoyed by customers from all over the world. By making garments in NZ rather than just sending raw fibre overseas
, we are adding value to one of our traditional resources & keeping people in work. Moving our production off-shore would be more cost effective in terms of labour however an element of control is lost. Elements that Kapeka has always placed as a priority such as labour treatment, quality controls and sustainability efforts. It is quite simple, when factories are far away businesses can never be assured that every employee is paid fairly and in a safe working conditions, it is harder to keep an eye on your quality of every stitch, and the amount and quality of water being used to wash the garments, not to mention the dyes they use.
From your experience, what are your most rewarding aspects in designing and manufacturing here in New Zealand?
I have great respect for the teams of people that are making our garments, they love what they do and take great pride in their work.
We are privileged to be able to make some of the world's best knitwear & merino clothing right here in New Zealand and share this with the rest of the world.
The creativity and ingenuity of the designers, technicians, sample & pattern makers to develop new ideas is impressive. We can develop new blends and manufacturing techniques & trial them here, this keeps our research & development strong and us a market leader.
Using natural materials from NZ origin to make sustainable natural clothing that is gentle on the environment is something we can all be proud of. Making them here in NZ we can control the process to ensure best practises are kept throughout.
Working with the teams here in NZ to create truly special garments is exciting. From creating a new concept range with the Kapeka design team, seeing it through with the expertise of our technicians, talented sample makers & the pride of the teams making our garments is very rewarding.
Click here to see our short video on our local made in New Zealand craftsmanship .
We would like to thank you for supporting your local businesses during this time. As Winter approaches it is the perfect time to invest in some cosy knits that will last without compromising the environment. Another way to support your local from home is through sharing our content, this allows other to find and learn more about us. Kia Kaha!