Aussie wool hits the Terrace

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Bob GarnantCountryman

A menswear retailer that prides itself on being able to trace its product from the store to the wool sheds of Australian superfine Merino producers opened its doors in Perth last week.

The natural fibre garment retailer, M.J. Bale, out of the eastern states, attracted the attention of busy St George's Terrace commuters on opening day, according to store manager Chris Spice.

"Opening day brought good interest with initial suit sales," he said.

Stocking its own brand of pure wool suits, cotton shirts and ties, the retailer's founder, Matthew Jensen, said the Perth store was the next step in establishing a national profile for his clothing brand.

With 15 years under his belt in the clothing industry, Mr Jensen has developed the M. J. Bale label over the past three years and is now turning over around $10 million annually.

The label is also found in David Jones retailers.

The store is believed to be the first solely branded clothing retailer in WA that sources Merino wool and, for the most part, can retrace wool fibre from paddock to retail.

Mr Jensen said his business direction was to embrace provenance and authenticity.

"M.J. Bale's obsession with quality begins with the supply chain, which stretches from the paddocks of rural Australia to the centuries-old textile mills of Northern Italy and sartorial workshops of Japan," he said.

"However, it is our relationship with the Australian Merino wool industry that represents the true soul of the brand."

M.J. Bale is a Woolmark licensee.

"We are working in collaboration with superfine wool producers from NSW and Victoria that involves hand selecting the finest fleeces."

Mr Jensen's passion for wool was installed growing up on a sheep property in NSW.

After attending the University of Sydney and gaining a major in marketing, he worked in banking and finance in London.

It was the mid 1990s and Mr Jensen caught the fashion bug from the quintessential of Savile Row, which threaded the idea to dress up the typical Aussie bloke back home.

Author Robert Treborlang wrote about Australian fashion sense which grew out of demeaning clothes from past ancestral convicts and later took an individualistic approach due to a lack of commonality.

The author said overseas people's clothes indicated the social class they come from.

"In Australia, clothes are meant to disguise," Mr Treborlang said.

Taking this into account, Mr Jensen said inner-city Australians were dressing with a desire for sophistication while incorporating the nation's laidback lifestyle to create its own idealistic trends.

Assisting the brand's success, M.J. Bale's advertising agency has developed a unique, Grazed on Greatness, marketing campaign, which resulted in volume sales and a multitude of awards at the Cannes Lions Festival in France.

In short, the campaign involved sheep grazed on turf from the SCG with the wool produced processed into superfine fabric which was tailored into official suits for the Australian cricket team.

Perth shoppers may spot Western Force rugby players being measured up at M.J. Bale, which is tailoring the team's official suits.

Mr Jensen said he was also open to source WA superfine wool and was anxious to find inspiration from the State's sheep industry.

He said Perth shoppers would be wrapped in wool when they visited the store.

"Expect an awaking evolution for bespoke services," Mr Jensen said.

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