Meet AFC Member Isabel and Nick Renters, Owners and Operators for the Great Ocean Road Woollen Mill. One of the many amazing Australian businesses who have joined our AFC Directory. Learn more about this amazing Australian spinning mill.
Great Ocean Road Woollen Mill began in 2015 to process naturally coloured alpaca into hand knitting yarns. Isabel and I (Nick) had no previous knowledge of fibre or spinning, we just wanted to use this great resource we grew ourselves and that many others nearby were growing.
We began selling 100% alpaca yarns and slowly expanded into other fibres, such as Merino, cotton and linen. These hand knitting yarns saw us grow into a niche part of the world, competing against cheap imports and third world processing.
In 2017 we tried to get our yarns tested on a commercial knitting machine, which ultimately led us to invest in a STOLL flatbed knitting machine in 2018. Two years later (2020) we became Australia’s agent for one of the world leaders in flatbed knitting (STOLL) and our in-house brand Zauber Knitwear, was established. Zauber showcases superfine merino, alpaca and linen, singularly and, blended in a boutique range of beanies, scarves, shawls; and this year, sweaters and cardigans. We are a true paddock to product brand, the only outsourcing is our scouring and dyeing, which is done in Geelong.
After meeting in Thailand (volunteering after the 2004 Tsunami) we fell in love, moved to Australia and got married. We then had a tree change and moved to our 20 acre farm and began raising alpaca. Out of a passion for the animals and an inability to find local processing we built GORWM.
Since then it has been sink or swim and swim we did!
One of our greatest challenges has been the lack of local experts to call on. Both aspects, yarn spinning and machine knitting, have been so decimated over the years that much of the local expertise has become hard to find. As a result we do things our own way and we often do things that others say can’t be done.
The other great challenge facing the fashion industry is an inability to be honest with themselves. Most companies only exist to make huge profits, to create seasonal clothes that need replacing each season to the latest (made up) colours. As a result, they chase lower and lower manufacturing costs, cheaper materials and undervalue all those who exist in the manufacturing supply chain. The Fashion Industry has created a “Look at Me” model where the brand gets all the credit (and the profit) whilst those who bring ideas to life are left in the shadows.
To counter this, GORWM has done several things.
We are the only spinning mill in Australia to be certified by Ethical Clothing Australia. This ensures when we do employ people they are getting all the entitlements and fair pay they deserve.
Also, at GORWM, we only use natural fibres, such as wool, alpaca, cotton and linen. We use solar power to offset our power consumption, we source all of our fibre from Victoria (where we are based) except for our cotton that comes from Qld and our linen that comes from Belgium (Australia does not grow linen for textiles). We show traceability along the entire chain from farm to product, and give credit to all those who help us to create our products, as much as they want to be.
We create products that are designed to last a lifetime, not a season. We don’t do sales as the value of our work isn’t any less as a season comes to an end.
For us it is about de-bunking some of the untruths that companies push, “You can’t get Australian made Yarn”, “as long as it is Australian merino, then that’s all we need to worry about!” or “it’s too expensive to make stuff in Australia!” We have heard all of this and more, but if you want a truly sustainable product then it must be made here, to Australia’s strict environmental codes, paying responsible wages, providing a safe work environment, minimizing the carbon footprint.
We are continuing to expand our range of yarns and knitwear, with the release of our first cardigan and sweater in the coming months.
We are expanding our mill at the end of 2021 to allow for a greater range of yarns. In addition, we now have a STOLL Demo machine for viewing to go with our existing knitting machine for people to see the process in action, and who knows, might start their own knitting label.
We don’t offer commission work, but we are hoping to offer a few intern positions in the coming years and possibly an apprenticeship/traineeship in 2022. We love to hear from likeminded people, those who really care! Every day we walk the walk, we don’t just talk!
What’s next for GORWM?
The expansion of our spinning mill and our knitwear range.
The winter season and attending some face-to-face events such as the Bendigo Sheep & Wool Show.
1. Kylie Treble – The Place of Wonder
3. Costa Georgiadis
KEEP IN TOUCH