South Africa’s economy is marked by an inequality in which part of the population lives a well-developed life in line with developed nations, and the rest of the country lives in extreme poverty. Innovative economic development is essential to reduce this inequality. International Wool Textile Organisation highlights a merino wool brand that is making great strides in creating jobs and uplifting communities, all while producing wool products of exceptional quality. Meet the unique Gerber & Co. here.
A Vertically Integrated Merino Wool Business
Founded in 2017, Gerber & Co. is a vertically integrated merino wool brand that covers the entire wool production and supply chain. This means that Gerber takes ownership of the garment from raw fibre to retail. This is very rare in the textile world today. Often vertical wool businesses will have ownership of their pipeline from farm to fabric, then sell on to retail. Gerber & Co’s pipeline begins on the business’s picturesque farm in South Africa’s Namaqualand region. Gerber’s merino sheep are shorn by hand (with traditional shearing scissors) on site. The wool goes to be carded and dyed at a small knitting company in Cape Town. Community weavers are entrusted with the final knitting.
“Bring it back home” – the J.S. Gerber ethos
Gerber & Co personally oversee every part of their wool garment’s journey from fleece to front door. All refining processes happen locally. Because of this, Gerber can offer an unsurpassable level of transparency: the unique BAA code on each garment tracks its wool back to the specific sheep who grew it.
“We are all about helping the local community to use their skills and making them feel part of a bigger story,” explains the company’s founder, J.S. Gerber. “From improving the lives of our farmworkers to helping our embroiders grow their business. Our 12-month plan is to set up our own washing and carding plant 120km from our farm, adding our bit to the nonpollution of the environment.”
Circularity is built into the process: “Wool is 100% biodegradable and our offcut wool is used to plant fruits on our farm, improving the quality of the Namaqualand soil,” J.S. Gerber says.
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Wool, Jumpers And Other Products
Gerber & Co’s output includes a wide variety of wool-related products. It has its own line of apparel, including jumpers, shirts, jackets, hats and more. It also produces a line of lanolin-based products. 100% organic, Gerber’s lanolin is gently extracted from hand-sheared Namaqua Merino fleeces, and refined and stability-tested to the most exacting standards. From this natural product the company has developed a line of lanolin-based body creams.
Gerber & Co. has also, more recently, branched out into selling other agricultural goods that popular in the region, such as olives and wines. Have a look at the JS Gerber website to find out more. The online store ships internationally.
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