The single-origin movement has come to menswear with the release of M.J. Bale's Kingston Collection: a range of suits made with wool sourced solely from Kingston Farm, a 112-year-old family run property in Tasmania.
It's a philosophy you're probably more familiar with when ordering your morning flat white, promoting minimal environmental impact and a product's provenance.
As ethical consumers, two of the biggest issues that are coming under increasing scrutiny are origins and sustainability: where does the product come from and is it done in such a way to guarantee minimal damage to the environment.
It's this double-edged sword that the Matt Jensen, M.J. Bale's founder, and Simon Cameron, woolgrower and owner of Kingston Farms, hope to address with their Kingston Collection – the brand's first single-origin suit.
A plan in the making
The project was hatched four years ago, over a dinner coincidentally hosted by a weaving company they both worked for. Somewhere between the first course and final round, both Jensen and Cameron realised there was an opportunity to create a range of suiting that offered transparency to the consumer while supporting both local growers and the environment.
"At M.J. Bale we believe in authenticity and character, and the idea of working directly with farmers and communities is of high value to us," says Jensen.
"We're trying to do what we can to kick start the appreciation for sustainability in menswear. What I'm so proud of, though, is that for a country that just ships out truckloads of our raw materials, we are finally utilising a supply chain to create a high value product that ultimately starts and ends in Australia. It's an interesting thing for us to do and is good fun."
The Kingston Collection comes in four colour ways – navy, blue, charcoal and grey – and available in a slim-fit, as well as a more relaxed, traditional cut. The Collection suits (M.J. Bale's top tier label) are made in their tailoring workshop in Japan, using Super 150s fabric woven in a bird's eye weave by 354-year-old Italian weaver, Vitale Barberis Canonico.
The wool produced by Kingston and farm manager Lydia comes with it's own unique qualities: weighing in at an ultralight 16.2 microns, Kingston sheep produce fibres with tight crimp and high curve. This gives the fibre great elasticity, but most importantly for Australian climates, the crimp and curve contribute to an 'airiness' of the yarn when woven into a suit.
"In laymen terms, this means the Kingston cloth is soft and comfortable but also durable, making these suits an extremely high-quality tailored garment," explains Jensen.
Investing back into the land
But for Jensen, the Kingston Collection was a chance to put back into the industry and land what they took out, announcing a dedicated percentage of every Kingston suit sale going directly back into Kingston farm to be invested in continued conservation efforts.
"We are working at the grassroots level with one of finest producers of Merino wool in the world," explains Jensen.
"The grasslands on Kingston are indigenous – some of the last remaining indigenous grasslands in Australia – and the farm itself has an amazing natural biodiversity of native flora and fauna. There are over a dozen threatened or near threatened plant and animal species here, including breeding wedge-tailed eagles, quolls and platypus. Kingston therefore is a very pure place."
A sustainable future
Aside from their wool, what also made Kingston perfect for Jensen's goal is that the farm is managed using sustainable principles.
"Simon Cameron is the fourth generation owner and manages the farm so as not to put any chemicals on the land and makes sure the wool enterprise doesn't negatively affect the native species."
"We try to be careful with grazing pressure especially in the more sensitive areas," says Cameron, manager at Kingston Farm.
"We encourage regeneration sometimes by planting and sometimes by protecting what is happening naturally."
Change in the industry
As a fourth-generation farmer, Cameron is passionate about the land he works on but warns that, in order for what he does to make a real impact, change has to happen on all side of the industry, including the consumer.
"There needs to be a change in community attitudes so that the work farmers do or could do to manage biodiversity is recognised as having a value, a social value, and we should be recognised for providing it," explains Cameron.
"There is room for government support (and I am not just talking about financial support) but it will not happen in the short term as it is not a vote winner. But I am just a farmer…"