LoveMerino is committed to bringing the 'love' back to Australian Merino by developing an ethical, sustainable and collectable fashion brand. Life Instyle caught up with LoveMerino founder, Pip Smith, to chat about what makes this incredible brand that was 120 years in the making so unique and blissfully Australian.
PIP SMITH - LOVEMERINO
Tell us a bit about the story behind your brand; your inspiration, the meaning behind your practices, your brand mission, etc
Love Merino – well merino wool is just a special fibre, beautiful to wear, gorgeous to work with and a natural product. One of our aims is to teach people why they should wear wool, it benefits and if that means purchasing a piece from Love Merino then that is a bonus. Merino wool is a choice and an investment in your wardrobe – its sustainable – slow fashion and if you look after it then it will last a life time.
What sets your brand apart from other merino wool brands?
Our story – everyone has their own unique story – Norms family The Smiths have been on Glenwood for over 120 years, our children are 5th generation on the farm. Norm, my husband is the most passionate man in regards to wool and holistic management. His mentors and the people I have watched him look up to and strive to be like - being the Late Dr Jim Watts in regards to producing the merino sheep that is most comfortable in its environment in Australia and produces the best merino wool in the world. The second being Charles Massey who not only produced SRS merino wool but practiced and now teaches holistic management – looking after the land – the people – the animals – the water cycle –
We can trace our products from farm to product and could tell you which flock the wool came from.
What were the first steps you took to launch? And what would you say was the scariest part/your biggest fear?
Getting the right team around me – we employed Tess Llyod (CEO of MUD Australia) who assisted in small start-up companies; Manuela Strano – amazing artist from Coogee, Sydney with the designs and website; Ian Smith - Norms younger brother who works currently with regional Development NSW – and his expertise in marketing; Karen & Pepa @ Shibori, Stanmore, Sydney and from Printing and of course with my husband Norm we were able to pull this together.
The scariest part and my greatest fear was that I did not know what I was doing – In my past life I was a registered nurse – and still a mother to 5 – and I am really good at running the mothership and keeping in on the course it needs to be on. I knew nothing about fashion or running a small business online – and I am still learning, the hardest bit is time management with the family – the farm and the business.
What sparked the idea to start this business together as a family?
We were sick of seeing our beautiful merino wool being sold at auction and never knowing where it ended up.
Tell us about the importance of your holistic farming methods to regenerate the land you work on for future generations.
Holistic management is a way we aim to live – we look after the people – the land – the animals and the water cycle – we aim to manage the property to always have 100% ground cover – with as many perennial plants as we can – using the animals to mimic nature – with short grazing periods and long rest periods so the land can recover and thrive - leaving Glenwood in a better place than when we found it to pass on to the next generation.
Why is being Australian owned, made and produced important to you and your brand mission?
We would not have created Love Merino if it was not important – it is who we are and what we do, we love living in the country – Wellington, central west NSW and we are proud to be Australian.
We support, employ, contract and encourage only Australian designers, artists – its easy once you have a gander.
How do you ensure your brand is sustainable and ethical as well as fashion-forward and in-line with consumer demands?
Norm and I have run our merino sheep farm for 25 years now and we have used holistic management and our vision and aim is to always look after the land, the people, the animals, the water cycle – to improve the land and pass it on to the next generation. Glenwood has been in my husband’s family for 120 years and our children are 5th generation growing up on Glenwood. We run SRS merino sheep and produce the most beautiful merino wool in the world. We ensure and trace our wool from the farm to the final product.
The consumer has changed over the last decade they are more educated and want to know where their product has come from – the story behind it and are prepared to pay for quality
Here at Love Merino we are more than happy for the customer if they are not happy to send their products back – we always look to being able to replace – refund or repurpose. Merino wool is the only natural fibre in the world that when managed holistically can regenerate the landscape.
What do you you think your customers love about your brand/product?
First of all, our Story – and when they buy a Love Merino product, they love and appreciate the personal side to their purchase, the packaging, the hand written letter to them and well the products - they truly are so soft and warm. It is our merino wool from our sheep on Glenwood - 100% Australian owned and produced - farm to fabric.
What are your personal favourite products in your collection, and why?
Well I do not really have one favourite as they are all beautiful and made from our own wool. The Ombre designs in particular the Champagne/Natural - I just adore this one and it is just so classic, and the Kangaroo Paw Merino wrap/scarf in Stormy grey – I love this one too – oh and our new beanies honestly you forget you have them on.
What path led you to Life Instyle and what is it about the show that makes it a great fit for you?
Well just by being social on social media and researching the brands that fit with Love Merino – we stumbled across Life Instyle and thought wow this looks like it may be a place where we find more of our tribe and that’s exciting.
Who are some of the other brands at Life Instyle who you love/admire?
Can you share one of your proudest moments in business so far?
When we won the Country Style fashion award last year in 2019
What is the best piece of business advice you have been given?
One of my best friends Sarah Rich from @inquistive – know your audience and be - OPEN – FRIENDLY – KIND, and it can apply to everything from your children – swimming club or your business.
And from my mum - Don’t sweat the small stuff – pick your battles
What exciting things are on the horizon for 2021 and beyond?
Love Merino’s 2021 Collection – this is always exciting launching a new collection.
Going forward looking at different ideas, new designs with the knitting of our products with Manny @aandbknitwear, in Brunswick, Melbourne.
Partnering with @thinkpositive, in Alexandria, Sydney to do digital print on the finest Merino scarf and Wrap that will be absolutely divine.
Continuing working closely with Karen & Pepa @shibori in Stanmore, Sydney love these gorgeous girls and our new collaboration with Jen and Bec @everydaychasmere in Castlecrag, Sydney.
When you’re not busy with the business, what’s your ideal way to unwind and give yourself a little bit of self-care?
I love to go for a walk with who ever is home up to Franks place which is about 3 km and I take the dogs with me although I am always a little wary with the Jacks in Spring and Summer with snakes because they chase them.
JUST FOR FUN!
Small Business Made Simple – Jenn Donovan
OMG has to be Matthew Barton’s Peanut Butter protein balls @fourcatscoffee – espresso Bar – Wellington NSW
Bucket list holiday destination?
Have a dinner party on top of the big hill at Glenwood with my family and good friends catered for and glamping
Last book you read?
Lessons in Heartbreak
You can meet Pip and experience Love Merino in person at The Neighbourhood: Great Southern Land at Life Instyle Sydney, 20-23 February 2021 at the ICC Sydney in Darling Harbour.