Merino wool clothing retailer Icebreaker has been sold to US-based VF Corporation, which owns The North Face, Timberland and Vans.

Icebreaker founder Jeremy Moon, who started the company 22 years ago, said the acquisition was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He did not reveal how much the company sold for.

"Our partnership with VF provides us with the largest platform in the world to tell our story, access new markets and reach new consumers at an accelerated pace," Moon said.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our global Icebreaker team and for our New Zealand wool suppliers to introduce a whole new universe of consumers to the benefits of sustainably farmed, ethically sourced, New Zealand merino wool."

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VF Corporation needs Overseas Investment Office approval to buy Kiwi merino clothing maker Icebreaker, meaning the deal is worth at least $100 million.

Chairman Rob Fyfe said Icebreaker was a "very small brand" in the global outdoor clothing industry.

"The opportunity to join VF's stable of globally recognised brands and to be able to benefit from their expertise, consumer insights, distribution and operating scale presented Jeremy and Icebreaker's board with the best opportunity to realise our ambition to become a $1 billion brand."

Moon, who owned more than 33 per cent of shares in the company, and Fyfe will stay on with Icebreaker.

Icebreaker apparel is sold in 47 countries worldwide and this year made more than $220 million in global sales. The company buys 25 per cent of the merino wool New Zealand grows and produces more than four million garments a year.

Steve Rendle, chairman, president and chief executive of New York Stock Exchange-listed VF Corporation, said acquiring the Icebreaker brand was a special opportunity.

"Its natural fibre focus is an ideal complement to our SmartWool brand, which also features merino in its clothing and accessories," he said.

- additional reporting BusinessDesk.