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Jeanswest on the road

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Adam Lloyd tells how he took his team on a very special road trip.

Jeanswest is about all things Australia right now, and Stage and Screen has been lucky enough to join them for the ride and manage their travel to some incredible rural locations.

Adam Lloyd, General Manager Product, has been with Jeanswest for seven years. Recently he has been driving one of the brand’s most significant projects yet: the first Jeanswest Australian Wool Collection, in collaboration with The Woolmark Company. The collection features meticulously sourced, premium Australian wool, and Adam was keen for the Jeanswest teams to experience this homegrown product at source. Here, he describes this special team trip.

“I’ve been eager for a long time to capture some of the great stories behind the scenes in product design and manufacture. When the chance came for a farm visit to regional Victoria, I took as many people from various teams as possible – more than 50." - Adam Lloyd, General Manager Product, Jeanswest

As we set out on our two-hour trip from our Melbourne offices to Wurrook Merino Studs in Rokewood, everyone got busy with on-the-road meetings. No rest for this bunch!

But as concrete and bitumen gave way to undulating green, everyone’s eyes were drawn to the windows. Gazing at the beautiful landscape, I reflected that I don’t spend enough time travelling within Australia. Ten weeks of my year are tied up in global travel, but like many Australians, I overlook home.

Wurrook is 150 kilometres west of Melbourne – between Ballarat, Geelong and Colac – on the picturesque Western Plains of Victoria. Here more than 20,000 Wurrook Superfine Merinos enjoy roaming on over 7000 acres of natural grassland. We could see these magnificent creatures as we pulled into the farm.

I’d been there a couple of months earlier and met with owner/ operators Paul and Kylie Walton, as well as their award winning Merino stud ram (who we named Merv). Everyone jumped off the bus relaxed, excited and keen to explore.

Paul has been on the land all his life and is an absolute wealth of knowledge, passionate about his industry. He ushered us into the shearing sheds and began to talk us through what happens on his station. He spoke about the different grades of wool and the differences that this can make at a garment level, as well as the many challenges of farming wool, from fires and predators to price fluctuation. His passion was infectious and the team listened avidly, coming back with lots of questions.

Meanwhile, I felt strangely comfortable here. I grew up on a small farm, and while most kids washed cars to earn cash, I sold wool from my small flock of five sheep (normally to my dad!). It wasn’t quite 20,000 head, but I remembered enough to drop a few correct terms. I think Paul was pleasantly surprised by this city slicker’s knowledge!

Next, the team tried their hand at shearing. This was great fun, and everyone found new appreciation of the skill. Then we tucked into a beautiful lunch of the Waltons’ sustainably farmed Superfine Prime delicious Merino lamb, raised right there on the farm.

We piled back onto the bus and soon half the team were asleep – must have been the fresh country air! 

Walking home that evening across the Swan St Bridge, enjoying the sun spreading its orange haze and sinking behind the city skyline, I reflected that there’s an element of risk associated with taking so many co-workers so far, especially to do something completely new. But it had gone without a hitch.

Our marketing team and agency had visited the farm so they could fully understand the story we were trying to tell. They then sourced an amazing Australian model, Stephanie Field, who was in fact born and bred on a Woolmark farm, Benangaroo Station in Jugiong, NSW. We shot our campaign there – and so our story came full circle.

These days many designers and product developers don’t have the opportunity to really touch and feel fibres and see the process come to life. More and more, I am trying to find ways to give my team this opportunity. I’m also really keen to capture and share it with our loyal customers, whom we treat as family. I know they will love this story if I can bring it to life for them."

The collaboration is a first for Jeanswest and significant for Australian fashion retail in general, as it brings to domestic high street fashion a level of quality and transparency about provenance normally reserved for high-end labels. The premium wool garments in the range bear the signature Jeanswest affordable price tag, but have undergone the rigorous selection and testing required to bear the Woolmark certification. ‘Sourcing from home’ is an emphatic statement in a market where the use of cheaper, inferior, overseas-sourced materials is still widespread.

Australian wool is a biodegradable and renewable product, and its use by a domestic fashion label as high profile as Jeanswest is a positive signal. The brand hopes to be at the vanguard of an Australian movement towards more sustainable fashion.

To continue Jeanswest’s mission to source the best quality materials, Adam Lloyd plans many more excursions out in the field. “More and more I am trying to give my team this opportunity,” he says. Although he admits to some earlier trepidation about taking such a large group out on the road, he says the trip went so smoothly he is eager to organise as many as possible in the future.

Watch their Australian wool collection come to life.

By Amy Cooper