Finalist 2022

Merineo

Merineo

Merineo is a babywear brand, creating garments in Melbourne using Australian Merino wool.

Merineo’s newborn baby swaddle bags, sleeping bags and clothing are made using Australian grown Merino wool, an ethically produced, natural and sustainable fibre, selected also for its skin friendly and sleep benefits. Merineo is known for the soft quality of its Merino wool products, debunking the ‘wool is itchy’ myth. With all garments made locally in Melbourne, Merineo proudly supports local makers and suppliers who share Merineo’s vision to influence a change in the textile industry away from fast fashion, towards the sustainable and ethical manufacturing of environmentally friendly and safe products.

Design Brief:

Fast fashion is about replicating runway garments using low quality fabrics to bring inexpensive garments to everyday consumers, whilst driving profits through mass production - every season – with little regard for our environment and the people working tirelessly in often unethical conditions to create these products.

At Merineo, our challenge is to create baby garments in Victoria, using 100% natural and sustainable fibres, including Australian grown Merino wool, in an ethical and environmentally friendly manner. Our mandate is to use local suppliers, from pattern makers to haberdashery wholesalers, and our product range to include sleep products for varying nursery temperatures and with a cute print on the fabric in response to consumer demand. We are committed to inspiring our customers, suppliers and the community to reflect on the impact their buying decisions have on the environment, our fellow human beings and the welfare of animals, throughout the supply chain.


This project was developed by:

Design Process

Our first step was to source Australian grown Merino wool fabric of a premium yet affordable quality. It needed to feel soft on baby’s skin, whilst being able to withstand the rigours of being worn by babies and laundered by busy parents. We required ethically made fabrics using environmentally friendly processes in accordance with recognised standards, and to test this, we met face to face with the owners and management of knitting mills - including mills located in Australia and Italy who we ultimately chose to supply us. We then tested superfine merino fabrics in different knit constructions taking many months, until we felt our selection criteria around the usability of the fabrics had been met.

The next step was to identify Melbourne based makers to sew our products. As part of this process, many samples were made to find makers who could create the best quality garments. In the creation of each line of products, lots of decisions are made and at Merineo we always give preference to local suppliers and environmentally friendly options, which may cost us more but the benefit to our local community and the environment is far greater.

In 2021 we introduced a printed baby sleeping bag into our collection in response to consumer demand, and after considering many designs, we created a double layer bag with a Merino wool lining and an outer layer of unbleached organic cotton knitted locally in Melbourne. We had sleepy Australian animals drawn by a local Melbourne artist, and printed on the cotton using environmentally friendly water based inks by a Melbourne screen printer. This means we now have a “cute” product, and a broader range of baby sleeping bags to suit varying nursery temperatures, all the while using local suppliers and sustainable processes and materials.

Design Excellence

The user experience has been factored into the final design of each product through feedback provided by parents. Samples are made prior to each product line being produced in bulk to ensure the sizing is appropriate, and to ensure each product is useful, functional and aesthetically appealing. In order to achieve our criteria of being known as a slow fashion brand, it is imperative our products are long lasting, both in terms of sizing and being able to withstand the wear and tear of everyday use.

The baby sleeping bags must also comply with Australian Standards, including AS/NZS 1249:2014 Children's nightwear and limited daywear having reduced fire hazard, which is a mandatory standard. Our products have been carefully designed to meet the requirements of these standards and independently tested. Our fabrics achieved Category 1 status, being the lowest flammability rating, which is the safest rating for a baby sleeping bag. Our babywear is made in a variety of classic and contemporary colours, including boy, girl and gender neutral colours, and the sleep products are made using varying fabric weights for use in different nursery temperatures.

Our products set a benchmark, as Merineo is currently the only exclusively Merino wool babywear brand creating “cut and sew” products locally. This achievement demonstrates it is possible to create a locally made range of clothing using Australian grown Merino wool and nature fibres, providing a solution that is better for locals and for the environment.

Design Innovation

Our project to create a sustainable, locally made range of babywear, using an ethical supply chain is one of a kind in Victoria. There is no other babywear brand using exclusively Merino wool fabrics from wool grown in Australia, and making all garments locally in Melbourne, including having the fabric printing done locally. This makes Merineo an innovative babywear brand as many baby shops in Victoria have provided feedback to us that they have not been able to source products to meet consumer demand for Australian made.

Our products are centered around the user, so we are grateful to receive feedback from customers about the functionality of our products, including washability, sizing and warmth, enabling us to continue to refine, improve and expand our product range. An innovative product in our range is the use of Merino fabric made in a ‘cool mesh’ construction which we used to create a line of Merineo newborn swaddle bags. The product was selected for displaying at Milano Unica in Italy, showcasing an innovative use of this unique fabric. Sleeping bag products made from this fabric have sold well to users in warmer climates, responding to a consumer demand for lightweight, breathable Merino wool suitable for warmer climates.

Our products are meeting a growing customer demand for ethically made, locally produced products made from sustainable fibres. The ongoing challenge we face is to keep our products affordable, and one of the decisions we have made is not to ever compromise on the quality or ethical production of our products by using cheaper materials which have not been made ethically or sustainably.

Design Impact

Our project demonstrates that it is possible to create a clothing range made from natural and sustainable fibres, using non-itchy wool that is ethically grown in Australia, and knitted into fabrics by ethical mills. We have also demonstrated it is possible to have products sewn locally in Melbourne, and the advantage of this is our global footprint is minimised. We are not freighting our products in from overseas.

Further, we create small runs of products, which means we do not discount our products to sell excess stock, or have any excess to send to landfill. Being made from natural fibres, our products are biodegradable in the soil and in the oceans, with merino wool having been shown to biodegrade within 6 months. Our fabric offcuts are given to manufacturers to make padded sports equipment, and we have just started a new project to grind down our fabric offcuts with a view to creating dyes.

Our project contributes to Victoria’s reputation as a design and creative culture, because in the marketing of the product, consumers from Australia and overseas learn our brand is about supporting locals, and using environmentally friendly fabric, materials and processes.

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

Merino wool is by nature a circular fibre. Starting with a sheep growing a fleece every year, the next process in turning the fleece into fabric. After use by the first consumer, merino wool products can be re-used and handed more readily down by virtue of the premium nature of the fabric. When left in the soil, merino wool biodegrades within 6 months, and when merino wool is washed, the fibres that come loose as part of the process and end up in the ocean also biodegrade quickly.

The Merino fabrics we use to make our products are made from 100% Merino wool, that is, the Merino fibres are not blended with another fibre. Further, in using local manufacturers in Australia, there is less impact on the globe because there is less freight required to ship finished garments from offshore to Australia. In using Australian makers, the product is made ethically. We have also commenced work on a project to grind down fabric offcuts to turn into textile inks, making our end-to-end process even more circular, as we intend on using the dyes for future printing on products.

We also use sustainable packaging solutions, including cotton calico drawstring bags and compostable garment bags. Our swing tags are produced locally from FSC certified card, and we use locally spun Merino/Alpaca yarn to tie each swing tag to the product. Are you can see, we carefully consider the environment in every little decisions we make.

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