At a party in SoHo last week, a shirtless male model walked around wearing a plush merino sheep headpiece. No, this wasn’t a furries convention, but the opening of the first East Coast retail store of a New Zealand outdoor apparel company, Icebreaker. Known mostly to the outdoorsy community, Icebreaker creates all-natural activewear out of fine merino wool sourced from the Southern Alps of New Zealand.
The company came about in 1994 when founder Jeremy Moon met a wool farmer from the region who handed him an insulating T-shirt he created. “It felt gorgeous and like cashmere,” he says. “[And in the past] I couldn’t stand wool because it was so itchy, but this was so soft.” Moon then began experimenting with the fabric, and realized its potential: It’s breathable and light, odor-resistant, keeps you warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot, and is natural, he says. “I launched Icebreaker to offer a natural choice, because all the active product is made of polyester, which is petroleum.”
And equally importantly for New Yorkers whose outdoor activities involve racing from midtown to downtown in 15 minutes rather than, say, mountain biking, “It blends with your wardrobe and doesn’t look like you’re wearing dorky sportswear.”