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August 22, 2017

From sheep in the Southern Flinders Ranges to your back

South Australia's Silver Fleece are keeping clothes manufacturing local whether it be uniforms for the Aussie Cricket Team or items for Naomi Murrell's new season's collection.

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  • Story: Sharmonie Cockayne

Remember the thick woollen uniform you used to wear at school? Or, perhaps the uniforms your children, younger siblings, nieces and nephews wear to school today?


Silver Fleece’s product range can be found on their website.

It’s more than likely they were made by South Australian company, Silver Fleece, in Kilkenny – about a ten minute ride down Port Road from the city centre.

Silver Fleece’s product is a schoolyard staple in our state, supplying uniforms for over 25 schools in South Australia. They also do other more conspicuous jobs, like the uniforms for the Australian Cricket Team as well as past Olympic teams. More recently they’ve been helping small independent designer, Naomi Murrell, stay local by manufacturing a selection of garments from the brand’s Spring/Summer 2018 collection.

Their base product is yarn – whether it be wool, pure wool, wool blends, or polycotton. In charge from start to finish, Silver Fleece knit the fabrics, sew them together, have them embellished, embroidered, or screen printed, and deliver to the client.

Ethics on display

Though we’re talking about them here for the first time, they’re not new news by any means. The company is currently owned by South Australian Cathy Barton but it was originally founded in 1951 by WWII prisoner of war and Yugoslavian immigrant, Tim Ivanovich.

Cathy Barton

It all began when Ivanovich returned to South Australia after working on the railway line between Adelaide and Perth. He purchased a knitting machine and began working from his shed. Fast forward 65 years, and the business, has invested in cutting edge technology, employs over 20 staff, and is based in a large factory in Kilkenny.

Cathy purchased the business in 2003, after working for the previous owners for what she says was a very long time.

She’s begun diversifying the product range, with the introduction of a line of business-to-customer leisurewear, and a baby range that includes personalised pure wool blankets.

Cathy’s decision to take on the business meant more to her than just investing in the company she believed in – it’s also about investing in her home state.

“We wave the South Australian flag where we can,” says Cathy. “[As South Australians], we all get a little warm and fuzzy feeling if we hear something about an Australian manufacturer particularly. We all have that call to arms when somebody local needs help – you only have to look at Spring Gully, Beerenberg, those sorts of people who are well known as South Australian. And if the general populace hear that they’re in trouble, they usually rally to help. I guess that next level of patriotism is that you go out searching for the Australian connection, or more specifically the South Australian connection.

“We’re that next level of patriots that actually go out searching for what we can do to make a stronger South Australia,” says Cathy.

And, according to Silver Fleece, that means more than just staying put in South Australia.

“In our case, we went searching for local wool, because we know that’s something that South Australia can produce. We, with the help of Michell’s [Wool], have found a group of growers in the Southern Flinders Ranges that grow the type of wool that we need,” says Cathy.

It’s all part of something larger, though.

“It’s that bigger picture that if we don’t put our hands up, if we don’t make that step in the right direction, if we’re not making those really good decisions – even if they’re just simple decisions in the supermarket about food and where that’s coming from – we will lose everything. There will be a big question about what are our children going to do, because there’s limited areas for them to go to. And the big companies will probably get bigger, and the small companies will probably disappear because they just can’t afford to run.

“All of those little industries and businesses that are keeping people employed currently will disappear if we don’t step up and say ‘I’m going to support them.’ Yes, I may have to pay a few extra dollars, but I’m getting a quality product and supporting South Australia, and I feel really good about it, and it won’t fall apart, and I’ll still have it in 10 years, and it’ll allow my children and grandchildren to get jobs here,” Cathy says.

“It’s just that really large picture, and we’re just a very small cog in it, but if we don’t put up our hands and say ‘yes, I’m in and doing something about it,’ then it will all disappear.”

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