Purely Dorset Duvets

March 2014

Adding value to the Trelawne Poll Dorset wool clip by creating high quality duvet inners

Wool duvets are made in NZ from 100% Poll Dorset wool, grown by sheep breeder Phil King in Hawke’s Bay and marketed as Purely Dorset by his daughter in Auckland, Julia Paul. It is a vertically integrated family export business adding considerable value to the special qualities of Poll Dorset wool – bulk with lightness, which gives a high insulation factor relative to weight.

Phil King has been farming “Trelawne” in Central Hawke’s Bay since the late 1960’s and now has 350ha concentrating on sheep for both lamb and wool production, dairy-beef cattle for beef production and crops of peas, sweetcorn, barley and squash. His two sons are established on their own farms in Central Hawke’s Bay and daughter Julia has an on-line retail business based in Auckland. Phil has developed the Ruataha Poll Dorset stud for the past 30 years to provide terminal sires for lamb production. Poll Dorset wool has been treated as a by-product for many years but it has special properties which make it ideal for duvet inners because it is light yet warm.

The wool for the Purely Dorset duvets comes from the pedigree Poll Dorset pasture-fed ewes which are shorn annually in spring and summer. In the past this wool has been discounted because it was very light and bulky. Phil could only press 130kg in a bale, compared with the standard 180kg of Romney fleece. The high-bulk, low-weight properties of the Poll Dorset wool are ideal for duvet inners. The wool does not lose the high bulk over time and the fleece does not have black fibres. The specified wool is scoured in Hawke’s Bay and sent to Christchurch for making into the Purely Dorset duvet range. It is treated to combat shrink resistance when washed, which is a point of difference from other wool duvets on the market. Phil has 300 registered Poll Dorset ewes and 139 ewe hoggets and retains about 85 ram lambs for stud use and sale as ram hoggets. The ewes produce 3.5-4kg each of wool annually. Should the demand for Purely Dorset duvets grow beyond the wool volume produced by these Ruataha ewes, Phil has other breeders he can call on, however there is a limited supply because there are not many purebred Poll Dorsets in NZ. Phil will get a return for the wool used in duvets which is considerably more than being sold at auction and which unfavourably compares with Romney wool, which provides the largest volume of NZ strong wool.

Phil is former president of the Royal Agricultural Society of New Zealand (2002-2005) and former president of the Central Hawke’s Bay A&P Association. He recently retired after 18 years on the board of Smedley Training Station, the past six as chairman.

Wool has the following qualities for use in bedding — naturally hypoallergenic, resistant to bacteria, mould and mildew, biodegradable, naturally flame resistant, able to keep bodies warm in winter and cool in summer and sustainably produced by regular shearing of sheep. Phil’s daughter, Julia Paul is a chartered accountant, who three years ago set up an on-line business from home in Mission Bay, Auckland, called Crisp Home, selling linens. Julia and Phil came up with the idea of developing and selling duvets made from the farming family’s Dorset wool. They have sold well throughout NZ through the purelydorset.co.nz website and the 0800 227 477 number, and have been exported to the United States, filling a container load. Further large export orders are expected.

Duvets are sold in both summer and winter weights. Summer is 350 grams per square metre and winter 500g. They come in six sizes, from cot to super king.

Julia says marketing on-line and not selling wholesale through retail stores is to ensure that a New Zealand wool product is affordable for New Zealanders. The price range is $105 delivered for a cot size summer weight through to $300 for a super king size winter weight. The duvets have high thread count cotton cases in pure white to fit with the Purely Dorset white wool fillings. Julia says even the first manufactured samples were impressive and few changes have been made to the prototypes. “We are incredibly proud of these duvets.” Almost all customer feedback is positive and around 80% of customers return to buy again for presents or other beds in the house. Most on-line sales are to New Zealand buyers but some have been sent overseas, mainly to the US and Australia.