CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — The Land of the Long White Cloud is about to get a silver lining.
Vintage clothing retailer Cameron Silver has been appointed creative adviser to New Zealand’s eco-friendly sportswear brand Untouched World of New Zealand — also known by the nickname above. It is the second consultancy job for Silver, who was named creative consultant to the Paris-based fashion house Loris Azzaro in 2004.
Launched in 1998, Untouched World embraces women’s and men’s sportswear, a plant-based beauty line and homewares. The company operates four freestanding stores in New Zealand, with the sportswear being wholesaled to about a dozen retailers in Australia, the U.S., Sweden, Germany, Canada and Japan.
Company founder and chief executive officer Peri Drysdale now plans to ramp up international wholesale distribution and open more Untouched World stores — over the next three years, she expects to open at least three international boutiques in London, Paris and New York, in that order.
“The plan is to take this brand to every country on the planet, [or] as many as we can, basically one by one, focusing on it, dominating it and then moving on,” Drysdale told WWD.
Silver stumbled onto Untouched World’s boutique in Auckland in October when he was a guest of Air New Zealand Fashion Week — and went back to the store three times. He later included Untouched World in an Auckland diary for Style.com, the online home of Vogue and W (which, like WWD, are owned by Condé Nast Publications Inc.). After the mention, Drysdale was invited to supply garments for gift packs at January’s Golden Globes.
Drysdale had at the time been toying with the idea of approaching an international consultant — none other than Tom Ford. While she never attempted to make contact with Ford, she didn’t have to wait long for someone else to come along. In January, unaware that Drysdale was even in the market for a consultant, Silver approached her for the gig.
“I do totally believe in the brand and what they’re doing right now is so strong,” said Silver. “I think as we collaborate and push the creative forces, it’s just going to be a very powerful and influential, aspirational brand.” He added that he plans to adopt a similar approach to that of Azzaro, by first working with Drysdale and Untouched World’s designer, her daughter Emily Drysdale, to decode its brand DNA. They got to work Monday, when Silver arrived here for a weeklong brainstorming session.
“They’re so ahead of the curve of environmental fashion — before [Bono’s organic range] Edun,” he added. “I see it really as a luxury brand. And really competing with Loro Piana, Malo, etc. It could be the first luxury sportswear brand to come out of this region.”
Untouched World is the premium brand of Drysdale’s Snowy Peak Group. Launched in 1981, the group produces three knitwear brands as well as Untouched World and is dedicated to environmental sustainability and uses natural fabrics and fibers. For Untouched World, these include numerous trademarked yarns like Mountainsilk, a machine-washable lightweight fabric made from certified organic fine merino wool and the possum fiber-merino hybrid Merinomink (which is also the name of one of the group’s knitwear labels). The Merinomink and Snowy Peak brands sell to 300 international doors, and although Drysdale declined to reveal figures, industry sources estimate that the group’s wholesale turnover is at least 20 million New Zealand dollars, or $33.2 million at current exchange, with Untouched World generating 5 million New Zealand dollars, or $8.3 million, in retail sales last year.
Untouched World’s core basics include T-shirts, trousers, jackets, skirts and accessories. A Mountainsilk top retails for 200 in New Zealand dollars, or $333, with prices reaching 3,000 in New Zealand dollars, or about $5,000, for a possum cape or leather coat.
Why possums? New Zealand purports to produce the world’s only “environmentally friendly” or “eco” fur by way of the Australian brushtail possum. The species was introduced to New Zealand in 1837, ironically to kick-start the fur industry, but numbers grew out of control due to a lack of natural predators. According to New Zealand Department of Conservation figures, 70 million possums chew their way through 20,000 metric tons of native herbage each night and culling is routinely carried out.
Untouched World’s international retail concepts will mirror those in New Zealand: a combination of larger (8,600-square-foot) and smaller (6,500-square-foot) stores, with nothing less than 1,600 square feet. All the stores will boast the brand’s trademark blond and dark wood fitouts; floating birch-look aluminum shelving; custom-made, recycled cardboard shop dummies, and the feather-and-reed Maori kite — the brand’s logo — and “primal” fireplace, which uses riverstones from the Rakaia River.
Silver is the latest international Untouched World mentor. Former Prada Japan president Shozo Honda helped Drysdale develop the original concept and she has also worked with Japanese designer Yu Homma and Italian trend forecaster Ornella Bignami.
To fully immerse Silver in the heart of the brand — the great New Zealand outdoors — Drysdale took him on a whirlwind tour of the South Island this week. It included a helicopter ride over the snow-capped Remarkables mountain range near Queenstown. “New Zealand right now is very much a fantasy for people abroad; it’s like this idyllic country,” noted Silver.
“Doing sportswear is no different to doing red-carpet eveningwear — you get to do the same things with branding,” he continued. “These are real clothes and clothes for people getting on and off of airplanes and sailboats. The day lives of the jet set is what I think Untouched World can be.
“And Azzaro is, of course, the nightlife jet set,” he added.