Wairarapa farmers Kate and Michael Tosswill are creating a new story for New Zealand wool, thanks to a bit of Kiwi ingenuity and a fine eye for design.
After purchasing Bagshot Farm, a 586ha working sheep and beef farm back in 2017, the Tosswill’s decided they wanted to champion the forgotten fibre and share their piece of paradise with homes across the country.
In a bid to ‘bring rural into urban homes’ – they have diversified their farm and created Hipi; a collaboration of local craftspeople creating sustainable, ethical and luxury homewares from the wool grown at Bagshot.
Amidst an industry still facing challenges, designer Kate says the wool business is one where everybody wins.
“The positive effect of producing items from wool in New Zealand is something that filters right through our society,” she says. “From the grower to the processor and the end user. Everybody is positively impacted.”
Unlike comparable businesses, Hipi has a local supply chain that doesn’t outsource overseas.
“We wanted to illustrate to urban New Zealand the kind of beauty that can be created with our country’s popular, but somewhat forgotten fibre – and to do so in a way that keeps the profits on Kiwi soil,” she says.
“It was imperative that the production of each Hipi piece is a thoughtfully considered process; we’re mindful in the choice of materials we use, and conscious in the choice of Kiwi collaborators we work with.”
From the wool, grown and shorn on Bagshot farm, through to the scouring, milling and manufacturing of the final product, each step of the process supports a local Kiwi business who has a legacy in crafting quality end products from quality raw materials.
With the rising concern about the origin of consumer products, Hipi signals a deliberate return to quality, longevity, circularity and ethical practices.
“Wool ticks every box that the discerning customer is looking for,” says Kate, who designs each limited-edition collection from the family kitchen table.
“While it’s still overshadowed by cheap synthetics, which can appease people’s wallets – wool has the benefit of containing no microplastics, no chemicals, and no residues, and it’s an excellent choice for your body, the home and our environment.”
For the Tosswill’s, it starts right at the beginning of the cycle to ensure the production of a product that is next to none.
“Our flock range freely over the Bagshot’s rolling hills and get the best pick of nature’s fresh grass and pure Rangitumau spring water, gravity fed to the trough by a solar powered pumping system,” says Kate.
The farming entrepreneurs have gained Global Animal Partnership Step 4 accreditation through an intensive independent, third party audit. They’re also Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) certified, a standard similar to GAP but with more stringent environmental and stewardship standards.
“The proof is in the product; homeware with exceptional workmanship and meticulous manufacturing methods, that you won’t find anywhere else.”