Idealog is one of the few media brands dedicated to celebrating New Zealand’s special brand of creativity. The New Zealand Merino Company has helped transform the sheep industry from a faceless commodity into a supplier for premium global brands. So, like Allbirds and Icebreaker are to merino farmers, we've teamed up to to celebrate the opening of its Studio ZQ innovation space in Christchurch and our design community’s talents by asking our audience to design a product that harnesses the potential of strongwool. The winner will win two all-expenses paid trips worth more than $7000: a five-day trip to Christchurch to develop their idea, and a five-day trip to San Francisco, USA to meet with US-based innovation experts. Read on to find out more.
While wool used to be more closely associated with your grandmother’s knitting needles, the natural, renewable fibre is soaking up renewed interest from a new generation of conscious consumers who want to move away from synthetic plastics, thanks to a slew of innovative new companies emerging out of New Zealand.
Companies like Icebreaker, Allbirds and Firewire Surfboards have paved the way for new, innovative uses for wool. The New Zealand Merino Company is the wool partner to these companies, and now, it is helping fast-track the revival of this material with an innovation space in the heart of Christchurch City called Studio ZQ, which helps develop creative business ideas and encourage more wool and fibre-based businesses to arise in Aotearoa.
CEO John Brakenridge says the business community is just skimming the tip of the iceberg when it comes to new uses for wool.
“If you look at the innovations that have come out using a natural product like merino wool – they’ve been some of the more exciting out of this country and if you take Allbirds, out of this world,” he says.
Brakenridge says to put it simply, New Zealand needs more companies harnessing the power of the agriculture industry to create ethical products, like Allbirds.
“We used to talk about this [the potential for wool] and it was all hypothetical, but now we have proof points, so the simple answer is we need more Allbirds, we need more Icebreakers, we need more Firewires. There’s real evidence there of rewards for the entrepreneurs so I think in so many ways, it helps to engage the young, so they see they can be entrepreneurial and make a difference.”
So what is strongwool? The benefits of wool is the same, fine or strong, but Merinowool is finer – it’s the soft stuff that winds up next to skin. Strong wool is a thicker, hardier type of wool that usually winds up in carpets – so let your imagination run wild in terms of the products it would be useful in.
Has that sparked an idea for a strongwool product that could make you the next Icebreaker or Allbirds? Then read on.
The Allbirds process
Send a brief description of your idea and any photos, visuals, media or prototypes that support your concept, considering:
The problem – What is the underlying problem that is being solved?
The description – How would you explain it to a child? How is wool being used? What stage of development are you at?
The right to win – Why does it have a right to be successful?
The impact – What social or environmental impact will it have? How will this be measured?
The dream team – What is your dream team of partners that would make success easier?
Note: submissions can just be a design of your idea – a real-life prototype is not necessary.
When completed, upload your design here to the campaign page (thanks to our friends at Shuttlerock!) where it will be displayed for all Idealog readers to see. You will need to include a short description of the thinking behind your product.
Entries close midnight on July 8, 2019. A panel of judges with representatives from the New Zealand Merino Company and Idealog will look at the desirability, viability and scalability of each product.
A shortlist of finalists will be notified by email, and the winner will be announced at an event at Studio ZQ, Christchurch at the end of August.
As well as basking in the success of developing a product from New Zealand that harnesses the power of wool and joins the ranks of Firewire Surfboards, Allbirds and Icebreaker, the winner will also receive:
A one-week immersion in Studio ZQ, including:
– Working through the Studio ZQ design process to assess the potential of the idea with the Studio ZQ team and experts over the course of five days.
– Travel to Christchurch and accommodation in Christchurch for the duration of the Studio ZQ immersion, up to the value of $1,200 NZD.
A five-day all expenses paid trip to San Francisco, USA, including:
– A meeting with Professor Baba Shiv, Sanwa Bank Ltd., professor of marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
– A meeting with Alex Castellarnau, user experience and design executive, who has led creative teams in the domain of user experience at IDEO, Dropbox and NIO.
– A site visit to a leading innovation company in San Francisco.
– International economy class return airfares, ground transport, accommodation and meals whilst in the USA up to the value of $6000 NZD.
This competition is open to New Zealanders only. To travel to the US, the winner must have valid documentation (passport, visa and travel insurance) to enter. View the full terms and conditions here.
We look forward to seeing you get down to the knitty gritty and sharing your wooly brilliance with the world.
This piece was originally published on Idealog.