Kiwi Country Clothing
By Bairbre Power
Sports coaches have a shimmy dance they do on the sidelines to keep warm.
Joe Schmidt, on the other hand, had a secret weapon, all the way from his native New Zealand, namely shoe liners made from possum fur.
In the 12 years since he moved his rugby career to Europe, news of the benefits of recycled hollow fibre possum fur - the third warmest in the world - has been catching up with him in the northern hemisphere.
In New Zealand, possums are regarded as a serious conservation pest because they decimate native forests and they are culled to protect the native wildlife.
An eco/recycle industry sprang up using the fur in cold and wet weather clothing but it has moved beyond fashion and outdoor lifestyle into the health sector where it is now on demand from people suffering from Raynaud’s disease, arthritis, bad circulation and cold intolerance.
Elizabeth McGuinness lived in New Zealand for years has been spearheading the benefits of possum fur here since her return to her native Monaghan where she runs Kiwi Country Clothing company.
“Increasingly our business has expanded into healthcare and the hospital sector with feet products for diabetes, poor circulation and restricted mobility as well as hand wear for arthritis, Raynauds, scleroderma and nerve pain," says Elizabeth
“We are now supplying possum products into numerous hospitals in Ireland for people who have suffered trauma to their hands or feet and GPs regularly refer patients for socks, gloves and other items and we make bespoke possum product for individual needs, on request.”
Elizabeth, pictured above with Joe whose family she knew in New Zealand, is fielding more and more health enquiries at her Christmas pop up on Dublin’s South Anne Street.
“The possum fur fibres create an effect called ‘effleurage’ which is a recognised medical effect of light stroking by the fur fibre on the skin. It stimulates the nerve receptors in the skin to such a degree that it competes with the pressure signals (pain) from deeper stressed tissues.”
Elizabeth says that unlike Australia, where the dingoes and snakes keep the possum population at bay, possums have no natural predators in New Zealand and by the 1980s it was estimated that were possibly 300 million possums in the country.
She says the upside is that the fur is now being recycled with merino lambswool into 'possum merino' and is ideal for older and colder people or those with health issues such as diabetes or Raynaud’s/scleroderma, arthritis or poor circulation.
Ironically, Elizabeth is now her own patient after being diagnosed with Scleroderma and Lupus in 2017 and cannot tolerate the cold at all now.