THEIR business may be just three years young but it's built on heritage dating back to 1846. Ned Scholfield and his wife Raquel Boedo are the fresh young faces behind Melbourne-based woollen jumper label McIntyre. As the name suggests, McIntyre's heritage is Scottish. Mr Scholfield's ancestor Duncan McIntyre came to Australia as a cabin boy aboard a ship in 1846 and promptly sought work on a farm at Clunie in the Western District of Victoria. It is where he was introduced to Merino sheep and the attraction was instant encouraging him to work hard and save to buy his own property. He bought land at Tabor, 300km south west of Melbourne in the Western District, called it Glenoe and established his own Merino sheep breeding enterprise.
The property is still in family hands today under the care of Mr Scholfield's cousin Tom Scholfield and running 2000 Bindawarra blood ewes, averaging about 18.5 micron with more recent ram purchases from the Connewarran, Toland and Curlew studs, Victoria. About 1000 crossbred ewes plus lambs also call Glenoe home. Mr Scholfield was raised at Glenoe, but like many of his generation probably didn't fully appreciate what was sitting right under his nose and left for the bright lights of Melbourne to study social science at Swinburne University. The opportunity for a one year cultural exchange program saw him jetting off to the Netherlands in 2008 and it's where he met his wife Raquel. When they returned to Australia he took on a role at fashion distribution house Abyss, his first taste of the rag trade and probably where the seed for what was to follow was sown.
During an ensuing stint as sales manager at luggage manufacturer Crumpler, he says it dawned on him about missed opportunities. "Here I was a kid who had grown up on a sheep farm and I'd found a passion for fashion," Mr Scholfield said. "How many people get the chance to put those two things together. "I thought I am a young guy with an interest in wool so why can't I spark the same enthusiasm for wool, especially knitwear, in other young people." Mr Scholfield said there were other traditional woollen jumpers on the market at the time but he felt they lacked fitted designs and bright colour palettes more appealing to his generation. "I wanted pop colours, bright colours that pop out of the page at you," Mr Scholfield said. And so with full support from Raquel, McIntyre was born.
The couple, in their early 30s, started with men's jumpers sourcing Australian Woolmark certified yarn and using about 500 grams of yarn per garment. Their first two designs, produced at A & B Knitters were named after his ancestor Duncan and Duncan’s brother Colin and the range was launched in March 2017. It was small, just 300 pieces, but the interest and demand was such they were encouraged to pursue their passion. This year they ramped up production to 500 pieces and are planning to exceed 1000 pieces next year. "Everyone I explain the label to loves it," Mr Scholfield said. "They totally get what we are doing. "The hardest thing is finding the time to be able to do everything." McIntyre garments are marketed through their own e-commerce store mcintyreaustralia.com, via online retailer The Iconic and through selected boutiques in Sydney and Melbourne. Mr Scholfield said, much to his surprise greatest demand was coming from inner city Sydney, from their target audience of 25 to 45 year old young professionals. "They are mostly wearing it for office wear, often replacing a collared shirt with our jumpers because they are soft and comfortable to wear and because of their quality they look good," he said.
For the second season two female lines, named Polly and Marian after Duncan and Colin's wives, were added to the range. Bright colours such as red and orange have proved most popular with men while pastel pink remains a favourite of the ladies. "Premium quality is what we want to be recognised for and I know Made in Australia means a lot in Asia," he said. "Our aim is to grow the business into a major Australian company selling Australian wool garments globally."
The range currently includes men's and women's crew and v-neck jumpers and bolder cable knit jumpers and cardigans for men. For Ms Bodeo, a city girl from Rotterdam, the introduction to wool has been a steep learning curve but her passion is now just as intense as that of her husband who was born to it. "It was a total eye opener to me," she said. "I like many Dutch people knew little of wool but thought it was itchy and scratchy. "Good wool, good Australian wool, is not like that at all and I want to educate the audience to this, especially city people.”
This story is from the new edition of AgriCulture 2018 magazine. You can read the entire magazine online here.