The merino is one of the world’s most ancient breeds of sheep, and one of the toughest. Very different to regular sheep that chew grass in the lowlands, merino sheep live in New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Merino fleece is built for extremes—breathable in summer, insulating in winter, yet exceptionally soft and lightweight. New Zealand–based apparel company Icebreaker takes tough, old-fashioned merino wool and spins it into whisper-light base layers that keep you warm but let you breathe.
Icebreaker has pioneered the use of merino wool since 1994, and unlike synthetic fabrics, Icebreaker merino is engineered to perform in a variety of outdoor activities. Compared to traditional wool, the Icebreaker merino fibre is a fraction of the diameter—which is one of the reasons why Icebreaker base layers do not itch. The large scales on traditional wool act like barbs against your skin. Merino feels like silk.
For fall/winter 2014, Icebreaker has tapped snow artist Simon Beck to launch the brand’s new Art of Nature product series, an ongoing annual collaboration with artists who respect and work in nature, and who use objects found in nature in their work. (Beck makes snow art in freshly fallen snow with nothing but an expedition compass and a pair of snowshoes.) The Simon Beck collection for Icebreaker is made up of 20 garments with designs modelled after what Beck has created by snowshoeing in the French Alps.
Sales from the Simon Beck collection—men’s and women’s long- and short-sleeved tops and a “hipkini” brief for women—will help raise funds for Protect our Winters (POW), a global non-profit dedicated to engaging and mobilizing the winter sports community to lead the fight against climate change.
“Sustainability is at the heart of Icebreaker, and we aim for profitable sustainability—a business model that balances ecology with economy,” says Icebreaker founder Jeremy Moon.
Watch Simon Beck create one of his intricate drawings in snow: