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Buying New Zealand made: Cactus WK Shorts

January 17th, 2011 Comments off

Bivouac continues to get a good run out of me. The blazing heat this summer reminded me of the dearth of shorts in my wardrobe, and so about six weeks ago, I procured a pair of Cactus WK Work ShortsCactus WK Shorts for the not particularly cheap price of $139. On the upside, if I ever discover the urge to go hiking a decade from now, I’ll probably be taking these, because they won’t have worn out.

What the picture on the right doesn’t completely convey is that before they’ve been washed a few times, they stand up like that all by themselves. On first wearing, the fabric is more reminiscent of the material used to make tents, because these beasties aren’t regular twill cotton, but rather, are made from 14 oz canvas.

The care instructions tell me not to hand wash the first few times, and to “…always use a mild soap rather than the traditional NZ industrial grade laundry powder…” which I should have paid attention to, as my pair has now developed a few light character creases where they folded in the washing machine.

The construction is a fairly generic five pocket pant design, similar to a pair of cut-off jeans, with a generous fob pocket that will easily take a set of keys or a medium sized smart phone. They are quite comfy once softened up, though I would have appreciated a crotch that was perhaps an inch lower. My only real complaint is that they pick up stains with disturbing ease which do not simply brush off like such accidents would on a pair of polyester shorts – and there’s no room for weight gain, because there’s no way these will stretch. Ever.

Buying New Zealand made: Chalky digit Helipilot pants

October 5th, 2010 2 comments

Helipilot pants, by Chalkydigits

I’m working on a follow up to the question I put forward at the end of my last post, but I haven’t yet managed to massage the swirling thoughts and ideas into a cogent coda. In the meantime, I’ll talk about some new pants.

I purchased a pair of oddly named Helipilot pants made by the oddly named chalkydigits online from bivouac from their clearance sale.They were ordered on a Saturday, which the server processed and emailed me about immediately, but weren’t packaged for delivery until late Tuesday, arriving in my doorstep early Wednesday morning. Given that I paid via credit card, I would have hoped for a slightly speedier response. They were priced at $139 including delivery and GST, down from $199.

They are, surprisingly comfortable. Along with the merino jersey of toastyness, these pants are making a surprise run on being one of my favourite items in my wardrobe. The current fad of skinny jeans does not sit well on my tōtara-like thighs. The Helipilots go in the other direction and have a nice wide straight leg cut that gets excellent circulation, which is important for my Wellington wind tuned metabolism. The 60/40 polyester/cotton is good at keeping the wind out, and dries phenomenally fast. So far, it’s also proved resistant to stains, which probably says more about me than the pants.

Despite being a relatively simple cut, there’s a surprisingly large amount of subtle design work involved. The knees have folds at the side to pad out the fabric, and prevent pre-wearing. Likewise, there’s a double sewn crimp about eight centimetres above the cuff on the rear side, if you’re the type to deliberately wear out the cuffs, then this should prevent that horrible tear heading up your calf.

While I’m on the detailing work, I’ll mention out that the pair I received lack the garish logo shown on the website, instead substituting a much more refined embroidered logo on the right thigh. And finally, there’s the enormous pockets. The single rear pocket reaches all the way from the centre seam at the back to the right hand side seam, and is spacious enough to take two wallets, with ample room left over for my phone. However, this isn’t necessary, as the coin/watch pocket has bowed to modern pressure and is nicely sized and shaped to take a cellphone.

Downsides. The legs are a bit long, though the cuffs sit properly on my shoes when I’m sitting down, and cotton/poly simply doesn’t breath the way cotton or wool does.

But, they’re pretty awesome. In the half dozen days I’ve worn them since I received them, they have garnered at least a couple of comments, and despite my misgivings, nobody has accused me of wearing parachute pants.

Buying New Zealand Made: D&P and Mandatory

May 19th, 2010 Comments off

This weekend, I finally made my way to Duncan & Prudence (161 Riddiford Street, Newtown). While they do not manufacture all items of clothing themselves, everything I laid eyes upon appears to be made in New Zealand, often to the point where Duncan (who was quite happy to chat to me about my project) could name me the exact person who had made a given piece of clothing. In the back room of the store, they also manufacturer t-shirts, of which a speed-up montage of the process is displayed on an LCD. These retail for $60, though the quality of the cotton certainly appears to be far superior to that of your average Hallensteins shirt, and roughly on par with a Enclothe (American Apparel) tshirt.

They also stock a good variety of jeans ($195) in both organic cotton and not-so-organic cotton varieties, which I believe they also produce on-site. Apparently their experiments with organic denim showed that it does not wear as well. Chino style pants are a similar price, as are off the rack shirts, though the style of the two I tried on did not suit me, though I was impressed with the quality. There were a number of jackets, ranging in price from $289 to $438 in a variety of styles and fabrics, principally merino and synthetic.

I eventually parted with $238 for a zip up charcoal jumper, which was also available in black and with a hood. It appears that they also sell cotton underwear, thus eliminating at least one of my exception areas. At some point, I shall return, and purchase a couple of tshirts, and see how well everything holds up with wear.

Earlier in the week I stopped in at Mandatory (108 Cuba Mall) in search of a jacket after experiencing some particularly stormy weather. Likewise, I found friendly staff who were intimately familiar with their product and who led me to a reversible merino green/black hooded jacket with a synthetic inner to keep the wind out. The price tag of $420 and my Eurotrip spend-up prevented me from purchasing that night, though I suspect I will be back. They also had a good variety of shirts and pants, at around the $200 to $250 range.

I had originally considered much of what was on display at both stores prohibitively expensive, because so much of what I is purchased on sale. Nevermind that the quality was almost universally better than everything I was wearing, I simply wasn’t used to prices in that range. My favourite jeans are Levi 527′s, and they have a RRP of NZD$139. But I’ve never paid that. Consider Briscoes, it runs sales so often that people only buy things between sales if they absolutely have to. I no longer think of sales as the occasional opportunity, but as normality. Clearly, the only way to compete with that, is to provide better quality – and that comes at a price.

Buying New Zealand Made

April 5th, 2010 1 comment

I sometimes feel that I should have a big “Made in China” logo tattooed on my person.

With the exception of my jeans (Pakistan) and my belts and suit (New Zealand), it seems as if almost every article of clothing in my wardrobe is made in China. Even the merino icebreaker t-shirt I purchased for tooling around snow covered Europe is made there. No doubt in order to allay these fears they have made special efforts to create a “BAACODE” so we can track which sheep and farm a given shirt comes from. The fact that the BAACODE (E37C4298B) attached to my shirt is apparently invalid, doesn’t give me much faith that icebreaker gear deserves it’s reputation.

After my debacle in January of attempting to buy New Zealand made barstools that didn’t cost a spare limb for each stool – end result; I found some on trademe – I thought that I’d purchase a nice leather jacket, also, made in New Zealand. Well, it turns out that Leather Direct NZ does use NZ leather – and outsources the manufacturing to Pakistan. Fail.

The two main reasons that I want to buy New Zealand made boil down to economic, and environmental. If New Zealand keeps importing everything, soon enough we won’t produce anything except untreated wood planks, steak, wool, and the occasional misguided PHP programmer. Secondly, I can’t quite shake the feeling that until we truly have unlimited clean energy, the practice of shearing a sheep, bailing up the wool, shipping it 10,000 kilometers across the world to turn it into a shirt, and then shipping said shirt back to the same country it came from is just ever so slightly inefficient and environmentally destructive.

Also, on a completely anecdotal level, I’ve been somewhat distressed at the quality level of what I’ve been buying, despite the amount I’ve paid for it. (Tarocash, I’m looking at you.)

So.

For one year, starting from today, I’m going to try to source all my clothing from New Zealand manufacturers. I’m not throwing out my existing clothes, and if I’m in another country or up a mountain and desperately need a pair of socks or a woolly hat, I’ll look for the locally made brand, but the pragmatic and imperative need to avoid frostbite is going to win out over my ideological and journalistic integrity.

In keeping with the environmental aspect, I will try to keep to natural fibres that are locally produced – where possible. As far as I’m aware, there is not a natural fibre replacement for elastic, and New Zealand simply doesn’t produce any cotton. Therefore, where possible, I’ll go for Australian cotton. With some exceptions, I expect that it will also be very difficult to get specifics on where fibre originates from anyway.

So far, I’ve identified Duncan, & Prudence and Rixon Groove as NZ based clothing producers. This should see me set up for shirts and trousers, and New Zealand made socks and belts seem very easy to procure. At this point, the items I expect to give me difficulty are shoes – especially sports shoes, and underwear.

Finally, I appreciate that this exercise will involve me paying a premium, and though I hope that the higher price will mean a higher quality product, but there is a certain level of expenditure which I’m not willing to go over. I’m not going to spend $200 on a t-shirt.

I intend to blog this process as I go along. Comments, thoughts, and suggestions are very welcome.