Icebreaker – ein aussergewöhnliches Unternehmen
Icebreaker verbindet seit 20 Jahren Menschen mit der Natur. Das Unternehmen wurde 1994 gegründet und war das weltweit erste Unternehmen, das ein Schichtensystem für Outdoor-Bekleidung aus Merinowolle entwickelte. Die Icebreaker Kollektion umfasst Unterwäsche, mittlere Lagen, Oberbekleidung sowie Socken und Accessoires für Männer, Frauen und Kinder. Mittlerweile werden Icebreaker Produkte aus den Kategorien Outdoor, Technical und Lifestyle in über 4000 Läden in 44 Ländern verkauft. Der Firmensitz von Icebreaker befindet sich in Neuseeland.
Wir wollten es genau wissen und haben Jeremy Moon, den Gründer von Icebreaker, interviewt. Das Interview erscheint im Original – in englischer Sprache.
1994, before you started Icebreaker, you wore synthetic shirts. And today – are you dressed in merino wool from the bottom to the top?
I only wear natural fibers against my skin because I love how they feel and work with my body. Merino wool is, for me, the hero of natural fibers the way it breathes, regulates temperature, stays warm when wet and doesn’t hold odour. When riding in the snow I do wear Gore-Tex as outerwear so I’m not totally against synthetics, but the idea of wearing plastic against my skin is a turn off.
Icebreaker made merino wool famous – how many tons of merino wool do you need today for your production? Does it all come from New Zealand?
We work with around 200 families who have merino farms that are scattered around the Southern Alps of New Zealand that covers approximately 4 million acres. Each year, they produce around 1500 tons of pure merino wool. I love that it is annually renewable; the sheep grows a thick coat of wool over winter and is shorn in the spring. From each sheep’s coat, we can make about 5 Icebreaker garments each year.
Let’s talk about the products – what is your absolute best selling model? And the opposite – which one ended in a disaster?
Our best-selling model is our base layer which is thermal underwear for active outdoor people. We have innovations each season for example, this season we launched Merino Loft which uses merino wool as insulation in outerwear. Also, for our Spring/Summer range we have a new product called cool-lite which blends merino wool with another natural fiber known as Tencil to make Icebreaker even cooler during the summer. Sometimes we get colors or styling a bit wrong, but we are working hard to improve the design of our product and we’ve got amazing new innovations around the corner.
You believe in the material merino wool, of course. But Icebreaker changed most of its materials in the last time and added some percent of synthetics. Why?
Our philosophy around synthetics is that we will use a small amount of synthetics if it brings out the natural performance of merino wool. For example, one of our high-tech sport fabrics uses 3 % Lycra because it allows us to use finer merino yarns that wick moisture and dry more quickly. It also increases the shape retention of the garment. We first started to do this in 2007. For us it is about unlocking the power of merino, and if we need a small amount of help from synthetics we will do it, but only if it doesn’t compromise how the merino works and feels against your skin. We don’t blend in a lot of synthetics just to make a garment less expensive to produce. That goes against our ethos.
You started Icebreaker, the company belongs to you? Or to whom?
We are a private company that belongs to my family and a select group of long-term shareholders. We see ourselves as long-term custodians and all believe that Icebreaker is a rare gem that needs to be nurtured and polished.
Do you want to sell it one day or hand it over to the next Moon-generation?
I believe it is important for my children to find their own paths. I believe in people following their own dreams and don’t expect them to be involved in the business unless that is what they really want for themselves. We have no plans to sell the company and we are focused on making Icebreaker the best that we can be.
How many people work for Icebreaker? What makes it special to work for Icebreaker?
We have around 300 staff across 6 offices based in New Zealand, USA, Canada, and Europe. We also have another 200 staff working in our 25 retail stores globally. In total, we supply around 5,000 outdoor and sport stores that are spread across 40 countries. I’m really proud of the strong partnerships that we have with the world’s best outdoor stores.
Is Icebreaker the only brand or company you started? Or what else?
When I was at school, I always had small entrepreneurial businesses but Icebreaker has been my passion for the last 20 years. I’ve also started a non-profit called Better by Design which helps around 100 New Zealand businesses become stronger internationally through design and innovation. I also mentor young entrepreneurs because a lot of our success at Icebreaker is due to the mentors I have had personally.
You started something and it is working. What do you tell young people thinking about starting their own business?
I found something unique and did everything I could to understand it. I wrote a plan that had a clear sense of purpose which was to bring a natural alternative to synthetics to outdoor people. I had a clear business model of making our own merino wool fabrics and selling them as garments internationally through outdoor stores. Based on that plan, I raised some capital from investors that wanted to support me and believed in my plan. Then, I set up a small board of directors so that I would have access to mentors who could help me. It some ways it’s very different now with the technology factors available to young people who want to create the next killer app, but in many ways business is all the same, it’s about understanding people.
Thanks for the interview.
Quelle Bilder: Jeremy Moon, Icebreaker