Quality is personal.

So says Cathrine Stange, the chief executive of Norwegian wool clothing brand Devold, who is visiting grower partners in the South Island this week.

Since her first trip to New Zealand in 2016, she has been out twice a year and has forged strong relationships with merino farmers.

"It's a personal relationship, it's not just a business relationship. To me, that means everything. I don't do this because it's a job, I do this because it's my life.


"This has been - and is - absolutely amazing to go out and spend time on the farms and see and know and understand and learn," she said.

Devold is a high-performance wool clothing brand that dates back to 1853, when its founder came up with the idea of knitting wool sweaters for fishermen.

Devold Wool Direct NZ contracts, being offered via PGG Wrightson Wool, have just been re-leased out to 2021.

They are for 17.5, 18.7 and 20.5 micron and about 640 tonnes across the three categories is being sought.

The estimated market value for three years was $42 million, Devold Wool Direct NZ general manager Craig Smith said.

Devold has a "sheep to shop" quality strategy and swing tags on garments provide information on the farmer and property that the wool used in the garment came from.

Smith said filming had been done on properties in Central Otago and the Mackenzie district since Sunday and the information gained would go on to garments at the end of this year.

The key message to growers was around quality and while there had been suggestions that style in wool did not matter, that was not the case.


Quality and style were imperative to producing quality wool garments, he said.

Devold's turnover had doubled in the last four years and that was something Stange was very proud of.

She believed a major factor in that "massive" growth was the company's focus on quality and "telling the world about how we do things".

The Sheep to Shop strategy was based on the partnership Devold had with farmers in New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, and the ability to trace all garments from the shop back to the farmers.

That full traceability was the guarantee for the quality of each garment and that message was gaining traction with both retail partners and end consumers.

When the programme was launched in 2017, about 50 per cent of Devold's wool was on that platform; that had increased and the objective was to get to 100 per cent.

There was also a "huge" trend towards natural products.

Trends were picked up on at Germany's ISPO, the world's largest sports trade fair, and over the past couple of years more brands had been talking about natural fibres.

That was in the context of the negative focus there had been on micro-plastics.

Wool ticked all the boxes in the "whole sustainability debate".

"For us, we're a wool brand - everything we do is wool. We have what we believe are the best-quality partners growing the wool going into the garments. Our positioning for the future is exactly where it needs to be," Stange said.

It was a twofold thing; consumers loved the traceability - increasing numbers were interested in where things were made - while growers were excited about the opportunity to take their farm brand out to consumers.

There were now 19 partners in New Zealand and more growers were wanting to come on board.

They included John Perriam, from Bendigo Station, near Tarras, which was one of the properties visited by Stange this week.

It was an "amazing place" and Perriam had played a key role in New Zealand's wool industry, she said.

To get someone like that on board with Devold's programme - "because he believes in what we're doing" - was something she was very proud of.

Devold continued to seek more growers, Stange saying it was critical to secure the supply of high-quality wool.