It's about our relationship to nature, and to each other.
We believe nature is a powerful force that is within us and around us. When you live in the city, it's easy to feel distanced from nature. Icebreaker is a bridge that reconnects us with nature, and protects us in all climates and environments.
Our role at Icebreaker is not to create the latest 'technical' fibre. Nature has already done that – and without an oil rig in sight. The Icebreaker fibre factory works 24 hours a day, on the back of an animal that lives in the mountains. Nature has adapted this fibre over thousands of years to ensure the perfect fit between form and function. If the merino's coat didn't breathe in summer, it would die of heat exhaustion. If its coat didn't insulate in winter, the merino would freeze to death. It works for the animal, and it works for people. But only if the fibre is correctly interpreted into yarn and fabric, and cut in a way that allows the garment to perform. That's where Icebreaker comes in. Each Icebreaker fabric has a specific fibre recipe, yarn specification and fabric construction. Each range has a different cut, depending on its purpose. Icebreaker fuses unmatched technical performance with contemporary elegance.
Everything created by nature is simple, efficient and beautiful. At Icebreaker, we believe nature is a powerful force that is within us and around us. We source the fibre for our garments from merino, an alpine sheep living up to 6000 ft in New Zealand's Southern Alps. The merino's fine wool is its armour against this environment. In summer, its light, breathable coat shields it against temperatures that rise to 35ºC (95ºF). In winter, the merino grows a thick coat as insulation against temperatures as low as -20ºC (-4ºF). Icebreaker takes responsibility for the whole manufacturing process, starting not with the fabric, but with the raw fibre. We sign long-term contracts with our merino growers to give them security, and to enable us to set strict standards of environmental protection and animal welfare.
Icebreaker garments can be worn solo in warmer weather, and layered together in cooler conditions to form a complete clothing system. The fine, crimped fibres in the merino's coat create more air pockets than traditional wool and most other fibres. Air is a poor conductor of heat, so increasing the number of air pockets traps body heat. Merino fibre has an exceptional warmth-to-weight ratio, and uses a process called "heat of sorption" to generate heat from moisture absorbed from the air. Layers of Icebreaker merino bond together like a single lightweight garment, trapping air inbetween each layer and giving all the warmth of a heavy sweater – but with none of the bulk. When it's hot, the highly-breathable fibre keeps the wearer cool by releasing heat in a process called "cooling by evaporation".
Traditional wool was warm, but it was also heavy, bulky and itchy, and took forever to dry. You haven't experienced pain until you've spent a day in underwear made from old skool wool. Don't do it to yourself.
Synthetics, such as polyester, may be lightweight and lower cost, but they're also clammy, smelly, highly flammable and poorly insulating. That's probably all you can expect from fibre made in a laboratory, rather than by nature.
Alpine merino combines the best qualities of traditional wool and synthetics. Its fine, soft fibres are breathable, odour resistant, easy care and non-itch. Looks like nature had the answer all along.
Your Icebreaker feels silky soft, is machine washable, resists odour, dries quickly, is exceptionally breathable, and regulates your temperature to keep you at an ideal temperature in all climates and conditions. Think of Icebreaker as your second skin.
Merino is soft against the skin, and won't prickle or itch. It's naturally anti-microbial and resists odour, which means you can wear your Icebreaker for weeks without washing it. Merino keeps your body at its ideal temperature by absorbing and releasing moisture.
Merino's fine fibres – much finer than traditional wool – create millions of air pockets that lock in body heat. The fibres pull moisture vapour to the surface of the fabric before it becomes sweat, leaving you cool, comfortable and well hydrated. Your Icebreaker can absorb up to 60% of its own weight in water, so it feels warm even when wet.
Once a year, in spring, merino sheep come down from the mountains to be shorn. Your Icebreaker can compost and return to the land... but will give you years of service before then.
Merino is naturally fire retardant – unlike synthetics, which are flammable. Merino has a 'very good' to 'excellent' protection rating against the sun (UPF 25-50+).
We believe it is possible to build a company that doesn't deliver at the expense of the environment.
In 2008, Icebreaker introduced Baacode, a pioneering system that enables consumers to trace every step of their Icebreaker's evolution, starting from the sheep station from where the merino was grown. Icebreaker garments now have an internal label bearing a unique Baacode number. A swingtag tells customers how to enter their Baacode on Icebreaker.com and trace the merino fibre in their garment back to the sheep stations where it was grown. Customers see the living conditions of the sheep, meet the high country farmers who run the sheep stations, and follow every step of the production process. In the first year of launch, over 100,000 customers have met their merino through Baacode.
The contracts we sign directly with our high country growers include five strict animal welfare requirements:
1. Freedom from thirst and hunger.
2. Provision of appropriate comfort and shelter.
3. Prevention of injury, disease or parasite infestation.
4. Freedom from distress.
5. The ability to display normal patterns of behaviour.
Growers agree not to mules sheep, and to meet our standards of care of sheep dogs.
The merino sheep that grow wool for Icebreaker are farmed in some of the most delicate ecosystems in New Zealand. They are sparsely stocked, which minimises the impact of farming on the environment and gives grazed pasture time to regenerate.
We require our manufacturers to respect their workers and provide them with excellent working conditions. Our manufacturing staff are paid a premium above the average wage. We guarantee excellent working conditions, which cover lighting, air, temperature, environment, housing, meals and equal opportunities.
Our manufacturers are required to demonstrate strong business ethics, with an up-to-date manufacturing plant and access to the latest technology. They must incorporate sustainable business practices into their business. They must also be part of, or be working towards, a global quality assurance programme (such as ISO 9001) and a global environmental assurance programme (such as ISO 14001).
"I could hardly stand the smell of my riding suit by the time I reached Ecuador, but my Icebreaker t-shirts, underwear and socks washed up by hand, held their shape, and stayed comfortable and odourfree for the whole trip. It's the best outdoor and travel clothing I've ever worn."
Motorcycled solo through Latin America
"I always train in extreme temperatures, at around -20°C (-4°F). When it's that cold, your sweat freezes. I always felt chilly in thermals, but in Bodyfit200 I can spend hours doing training runs from the top of a glacier and be confident I'll stay warm."
"I've hiked thousands of miles in Icebreaker pieces, and I'm always amazed at how they perform. During one hike, I wore the same Icebreaker top for 60 days straight and only handwashed it twice. It held up awesome, and never got stinky."
JUSTIN LICHTER AND HIS DOG YONI