Smitten about Tasmanian wool
Using Tasmania’s superfine merino to make both fashionable and durable clothing
Carl and Nicola Mason arrived in Tasmania, sight unseen, with their three children and their dreams. It was a courageous leap from Western Australia for the UK-born husband and wife. But through combining their skills with a good dose of entrepreneurship, Smitten Merino soon became reality.
A long way from their home turf in Australia’s far west, the couple sat in a little Tasmanian coffee shop, pondering what they could do to keep themselves in this beautiful island state. They were interested creating a business that involved local manufacturing, working with local farmers, and was environmentally sustainable. Nicola talked of potentially starting a fashion business, and it was the New Zealand merino wool thermals Carl was wearing which helped her land the idea.
“I had noticed in Tasmania there were a lot of sheep,” Nicola says with a smile, “but where was all the wool going? It made perfect sense to us to create superfine merino clothing.” It was on this day that Smitten Merino was born.
Smitten Merino could not be more genuinely Tasmanian. Their full range of products are manufactured right here in Tasmania’s north west with each piece spun using premium natural fibre merino wool from premier local growing regions. Even print material and labels are produced and printed locally.
“We have everything made in Spreyton, in Tasmania’s north west,” says Carl. “We began with a small handful of sewers. Today there are 21 hard-working women.”
The family-run business is very hands on. Nicola is the designer and chief photographer, Carl is marketeer and photographer, and daughter Holly is the face of Smitten. The other siblings, Brooke and Daniel, both help out as their studies and other commitments permit.
Although the idea started purely as a fashion brand, Smitten has expanded to cater for a market demanding much more versatile options, producing hard working gear which even caters for polar explorers such as Eric Philips. According to the pair, there’s no better all-round performing product.
“We’ve had people ski unassisted to the North and South Pole in our clothing. It’s been worn by people who have guided Prince Harry. They love it because the fabrics are so good,” says Carl. “We had Pat Farmer run in our clothing 26,000 kilometres from the North Pole to the South Pole. It certainly stands up performance-wise.”
But what was it about Tasmania that drew them here? The distinct four seasons and a real winter that reminds Nicola of her childhood. When Carl is not running the Overland Track in his Smitten thermals and Nicola isn’t working on a new wrap dress design, you’ll find them enjoying a long, relaxed brunch in South Hobart – likely dreaming up new clothing ideas.
Smitten Merino can be found each Saturday at Salamanca Markets, along with their extensive range of clothing found in stores nationwide. To find out more about Smitten Merino, or to see their range of products, visit their website.
Smitten Merino turned 10 in October 2017 and a month earlier moved into a new street-front Smitten boutique in Battery Point, Hobart. “We are in a bigger premises with more staff than before, and reaching more international markets. Our range is ever-growing and we have some great chunky knits coming through, as well as long coats for winter,” says Nicola.
Tasmania is a great place for starting a business, and you could be just like Carl and Nicola Mason. For information on starting a business in Tasmania look through our stories and visit Business Tasmania.