WELLINGTON, New Zealand — December 5, 2013 — A new wool and rice straw blended upholstery fabric,
which has been developed by a Wellington company, goes into commercial production next year with
the potential to create significant demand for New Zealand crossbred wool, while helping solve a
massive air pollution problem in China.
The Formary is a Wellington textile design and development company that creates solely
sustainable interior textiles. It already has a track record with its WoJo® upholstery fabrics
brand created from recycled jute fibre from coffee sacks blended with New Zealand wool.
But the wool-rice straw blended textile appears to have a much bigger future. One of The
Formary’s co-founders, Bernadette Casey, said the production runs out of China are projected to be
Next month she will visit the top 10 North American furniture manufacturers and distributors
to show their prototype samples and start building interest and demand. Early in the New Year they
will spend up to three months working with their Chinese manufacturing partners in Zhejiang to fine
tune the production process and commercialise the product.
After that they will be confirming orders in the United States and Europe with the commercial
production runs expected to start around May or June.
Ms Casey said a Federal tax rebate is available for US companies that use energy efficient
certified sustainable products in their refurbishments or new builds (LEED certification) and one
European retailer has expressed interest in taking The Formary’s entire initial production, even
before commercial fabric samples are available.
The new textile called Mibu® will be woven in China under a recently signed memorandum of
understanding between The Formary and its manufacturing partner, Zhejiang Furun Textile Company.
The 70 percent wool-30 percent rice straw woven fabric has the potential to use all of the
wool New Zealand can grow in the mid 26 to 30 micron range, while at the same time helping reduce
China’s massive air pollution problem caused by burning waste straw after the rice harvest.
“We can scale up the production runs very quickly and if early indication of demand is
correct we will have to source 26 to 30 micron wool globally to fill our orders.
“Each year China disposes of 200 million tonnes of rice straw with the majority of it being
burnt. It’s quite common for the smoke and ash pollution to get so bad they have to close their
airports, so the Chinese see this as a solution to a problem as much as a manufacturing
opportunity,” Ms Casey said.
The Formary was started four years ago by Ms Casey, a textile and design specialist based in
Wellington, and Gisborne designer Sally Shanks, with the development of WoJo®.
The product was launched in London and caught the eye of the Prince Charles, who is leading a
global Campaign for Wool and he awarded the directors his Sustainable Development Award, while
Kevin McCloud from the British television show Grand Designs gave WoJo® a Green Hero Award as one
of the 10 best Eco products on the market.
Ms Casey said the Wellington City Council and the Zhejiang Economic and Information
Technology Commission had been enormously helpful recognising the opportunity and getting the
manufacturing project off the ground.
“The Formary’s latest success is another great result for their sustainable business,
building economic success while reducing pollution and waste,” said Wellington Mayor Celia
Wade-Brown. “The business relationship with the Furun Textile Company highlights the importance of
our region’s relationship with the Zhejiang Province and our strategic economic partnership we
formed between our regions with 2012’s Memorandum of Understanding.”
The rice straw fabric cost about the same as other wool blend upholstery materials, but the
high silica content of straw enhances the existing flame resistant properties of wool, a stark
contrast to the oil-based synthetic products that dominate the market.
Ms Casey said they chose Zhejiang Furun Textile company because of its capability and track
record in second generation textiles.
“Wool is a brilliant carrier for other fibres, while the straw fibre enhances the properties
of wool, such as improving flame resistance and durability, making the fabric more hard wearing,”
With an idea so big, how does The Formary protect its intellectual property?
The Formary has taken a patent out on its idea, but Ms Casey said it was also important for
companies to build trust and integrity with their partners.
Ms Casey said good ideas can never be totally protected and people very quickly build on them
with second and third generation versions “because that’s how things evolve and you have got to be
“On top of that you build the brand and promote your product. Being first to market gives you
an advantage, because you can build demand ahead of your competitors.”
Ms Casey said the demand for food production is projected to double in the next 40 years to
meet growing demands from an additional 2 billion people, making it logical that arable and
productive land producing single-purpose fibre crops like cotton would have to give way to dual
purpose crops that produced both food and fibre.
Posted December 18, 2013
Source: The Formary