Success for Perino blend strengthens hunters’ chances for better access to public land

A pact being negotiated by the Department of Conservation and the Fur Council is expected to boost New Zealand's possum fur industry which generates $130 million a year.

The Noble Savage collection with Maori motifs on knitwear featuring the Perino blend of possum fur and cashmere or merino yarn was a big hit during the NZ Fashion Week. Photo / Supplied
The Noble Savage collection with Maori motifs on knitwear featuring the Perino blend of possum fur and cashmere or merino yarn was a big hit during the NZ Fashion Week. Photo / Supplied

It should help overcome anti-fur protest action such as leading designer Zambesi encountered after featuring the Perino blend of possum fur and cashmere or merino yarn in its Fashion Week collection.

Association with DoC's strong environmental brand will assist promoters of possum fur products to get the message across that the marsupials are pests on which millions of dollars are being spent on eradication to stop them destroying forests.

Perino was a sensation on the Fashion Week runway in August for Zambesi and The Noble Savage designers, who used the luxury blend in dresses, cardigans, hats and socks.

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The 15-piece Noble Savage collection of made-to-order knitwear featuring strong Maori motifs was a collaboration between Copenhagen-based shoe designer Maree MacLean and Parisian fashion designer Angela Gallard, who remain enthusiastic about Perino's super-warm, super-light properties.

But after dealing with anti-fur protests, Zambesi founder Neville Findlay told The Land: "We are not proceeding with the use of possum yarn until we have full and further information regarding the harvesting of the fibre."

The Fur Council began working out a memorandum of understanding with DoC in April to give possum hunters better access to public land.

The department's partnership accounts manager, Mark Beardsley, said hunters could get permits to catch possums on DoC land, but access differed throughout the country and adjustments would improve that.

It was uneconomical for hunters to reduce possum populations to the very low levels required by DoC, but Beardsley said this tension between hunters "farming" possums and conservation benefits was being set aside in the talks. "We see the Fur Council as really positive," he said. "We would like to build a long-term relationship with it as we want to see people out there trapping possums on public land."

He hoped the memorandum would be signed within the next two months.

Council chairman Neil Mackie, who is also managing director of Woolyarns NZ, which manufactures Perino yarn, said that if sufficient possum fur were available the international market for the blend could be doubled or trebled.

"But inevitably that would produce animal welfare issues," he said. "Working with DoC would help sell the story on the international market that the more possums killed the better it is for the New Zealand environment."

Woolyarns aims to expand into high fashion and increase sales of Perino by 25 per cent through exports over the next two years. The company plans to exhibit its Perino yarn collection next year at Pitti Immagine Filati in Italy, the main international event for the knitting yarn industry attracting the world's finest knitting manufacturers and fashion designers, all looking for the latest trends.