The country's last circular knitting company is closing down after more than 50 years in business, with the loss of 30 local jobs.

Levana's chief executive says the firm has finally succumbed to economic pressures and will be closing its doors for good in the coming months.

The Merino Company bought Levana in 2007 and rebranded as TMC Innovation last year with a new focus to be a world leader in innovative spinning and wool technology.

TMC chief executive officer Andy Wynne said despite his efforts to keep the Bristol St facility running, the company had to let go of the past to focus on the future.


"This is a difficult pill for our people to swallow, as it is also for our customers, and a difficult process for me to go through ... one of my most difficult," he said.

Levana employee of 27 years, Maurice Brown, said he was 'gutted' Levana was closing down but had seen it coming for five years and understands "it's tough out there".

Brown, a supervisor for 20 years, said Levana had supplied fabric for Target, Pumpkin Patch and Bendon and while shopping with his wife, he would frequently come across garments made from fabric he had produced and it would bring him joy.

He said it had been a good job and good pay, but at 59 years old he was too young to retire and would have to find another job.

"I know Andy has done his best. It's tough out there."

For one of the last times in his 27-year career at Levana textile manufacturers, Maurice Brown threads rolls of lycra onto a knitting machine.
For one of the last times in his 27-year career at Levana textile manufacturers, Maurice Brown threads rolls of lycra onto a knitting machine.

Brown said the company put him through a computing course that enabled him to make a curriculum vitae, but he was still worried about finding a job.

Wynne said the company would do all they could to help staff find alternative employment.

"The company is working with local businesses to assist staff to transition to other jobs with the hope of creating as little impact as possible to their livelihoods," he said.


Wynne said since the global financial crisis in 2007- 2008, Levana had seen demand for products in its traditional Australasian market decline significantly.

However, the company had successfully re-positioned itself and introduced new market-leading technologies to grow its international business, but this growth had been stunted by the cost of manufacturing in New Zealand.

Wynne said despite attempts to save the historic Levana business, its textiles remain uncompetitive. Continuing to produce TMC fabrics from Levin was "simply not viable".

"TMC has a 12-week logistical disadvantage to its competitors as wool tops and yarns are imported from Asia to New Zealand and finished fabrics are exported to Asia, Europe and North America," he said.

"Fabrics can be purchased at $3-$5 per metre out of Asia rather than $12 per metre from New Zealand."

Levana knitting machine.
Levana knitting machine.

Wynne said in order to look to the future they must let go of the past.

"TMC is shifting its focus to spend more time on innovation [where it has] demonstrated true capacity to develop world first technologies," he said.

The company has seen significant success in commercialising its technologies and establishing licence agreements with broader industry sectors in apparel yarn and more recently in the carpet and flooring industry.

He said its NuYarn twist-free spinning technology has significantly outperformed expectations, creating huge international demand from world-leading performance brands.

"NuYarn spinning machines created by TMC are spinning between 140-250 metres per minute, ahead of the rest of the industry that spins at 12-14 metres per minute," he said.

In 2011, TMC launched Encircle, designing compression socks, which won a prestigious Medical Design Excellence Award in New York City.

Wynne said it was these new innovative opportunities that the company needed to focus on because in world first technologies, there are no competitors.

ANDY Wynne, chief executive officer of TMC innovation.
ANDY Wynne, chief executive officer of TMC innovation.

"Looking at our business, the opportunities and future, we have got to focus on what works and commercial realities.

"This is the beginning of a new era for The Merino Company."