Friday, September 26, 2008

A Look at Icebreaker

Do you know where the clothing you’re wearing today was made, and how it was made? If you’re wearing Icebreaker merino wool product, you can say yes if you’ve checked your Baacode number. Icebreaker, a company that produces 100% merino wool clothing from New Zealand, can tell the customer where clothing originated and the process it went through from the second it was sheared off the sheep until the time they purchased it from the store. Each article of clothing comes with its own Baacode. At their website, Icebreaker.com (pictured to the right), the customer can enter the Baacode and find which of the 120 stations the wool in their shirt or sweater is from.

Frank Spiewack, a sales operation manager at Icebreaker, and member of Front End of Innovation LinkedIn Group, brought this innovation at his company to our attention. We were fortunate enough to learn more about this company, what they stand for, and the details behind this unique customer service innovation. They clearly have focused on being innovative, all while focusing on being the top company using merino wool, creating an excellent product developed through sustainable practices, all while engineering a unique customer experience tied directly to their supply chain operations.

I had the chance to speak with Emma van Asch, the Marketing Executive at Icebreaker, about this unique product. After speaking with Emma, it’s clear that the company is passionate about purity and sustainability. Their supply chain innovation along with customer transparency is revolutionary. They have changed little since 1995 when Jerry Moon founded the company. Striving for a pure and sustainable brand, they began by building their company from the ground up, developing a supply chain that only included companies that they trusted and could ensure the quality and integrity of their product. The company’s complete control of the supply chain allows them to link their products back through every step in the chain, starting with the original station that the wool was collected at (in this screen shot you can see the Branch Creek Station for the Baacode entered), ensuring eco-friendly and sustainable processes to the end product.

Icebreaker’s innovative goals are evident in all aspects of their product development, focusing on being new as well as natural; concentrating on the relationships and ideas they’ve held as a standard for their company. Drawing inspiration from the purity of the New Zealand Alps, the original location of Moon’s sheep farm, they are motivated to create connections between old and new business practices. As part of their business goals, Icebreaker focuses on being very environment friendly, and seeks to incorporate sustainability and green innovation in order to preserve the planet and integrity of their product.

In developing the Baacode program, they set out to inform their customers in all the details about their products. Once you enter the Baacode, you can find where the station is, about the farmers at the station and information on the farm the sheep are raised on. They’ve seen a new relationship evolve with their customers as a result of the transparency of their products. Their focus is on the coexistence with nature instead of trying to impose on it; a clothing line that is gender neutral - a peaceful relationship between wool and skin.

Icebreaker presents a unique model of clothing company. They demonstrate clear respect for their customers, the environment and their business partners. Striving to stay the top supplier in Moreno wool, this company seeks to regularly innovate while developing sustainability programs to do so.

The PDF version of this article is available here.

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