Shoe makers visit their wool sourceSave
By Sally Rae
When Nanny Glerup Kristensen felted a pair of boots with wool from her own sheep back in 1993, little did she know that it would grow into an export business.
Danish footwear firm Glerups now markets indoor shoes throughout Denmark and in more than 20 countries, selling close to 250,000 pairs a year.
In 2015, Glerups signed a deal with the New Zealand Merino Company and Landcorp for them to supply New Zealand strong wool for its range.
Mrs Glerup Kristensen and her husband Ove have been in New Zealand catching up with NZM staff and visiting Landcorp properties, including Waipori Station on the shores of Lake Mahinerangi.
Her foray into footwear started as a hobby, making shoes by hand - she could only felt two pairs a day - and it was then decided to make a small business out of it.
The business started selling at a fair and grew very slowly until it was decided to purchase some machinery and tools and the product became "more professional", she said.
Production was later moved to premises in Romania where 50 people were now employed making shoes. It had grown into a family business and the couple's son, Jesper Glerup Kristensen, was now involved.
Mrs Glerup Kristensen "never ever" dreamed the business would develop into such a large operation. Rather, the couple thought making a few shoes would give them "a little extra money".
They used wool from Gotland sheep, a breed which was first established on the Swedish island of Gotland by the Vikings with Karakul and Romanov sheep brought back from expeditions into Russia and crossed with the native landrace sheep.
It was necessary to mix the Gotland fibre with another kind of wool and, in the beginning, Ms Glerup sourced that wool from England.
Sometimes she got the wool she wanted but at other times it was not the correct micron. As the business grew, they tired of the varying quality.