• Up close with yaks during Stefan Warnaar's travels through the mountains of Tajikistan. Photo credit: Stefan Warnaar via University of CanterburyUp close with yaks during Stefan Warnaar's travels through the mountains of Tajikistan. Photo credit: Stefan Warnaar via University of Canterbury

University of Canterbury entrepreneur crowdfunds yak-wool clothing

Stefan Warnaar, a University of Canterbury engineering graduate has recently reached his crowdfunding target for a new company manufacturing yak-wool clothing.

Stefan recently graduated from the University of Canterbury with a degree in chemical engineering, but with the help of the UC Centre for Entrepreneurship Summer Startup programme, he now is now working hard to set up his new business manufacturing the new line of baselayers.

The idea to use yak-wool to make outdoor garments came to him whilst travelling on the Tibetan Plateau. Stefan explains: “I first encountered yaks in Mongolia, and then in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan after that. I was there in May 2015 to travel around the country where I could go hiking, camping, horse-riding and experience a remote way of life. I saw a few companies making scarves and beanies with cashmere, yak and camel fibre. I didn't see the local herders using it, or collecting it to sell, but I did see and help them collect fibre from goats for cashmere. Initially I didn't understand why they were only collecting the goat fibre, when you could feel that yak fibre was also very soft and warm, but quickly understood that it was because no-one was buying yak fibre, whereas there is a massive market for cashmere. Except for a few local brands there weren't many people using yak fibre.”

Stefan used Kickstarter to raise money for his business as clothing manufacturers often require large minimum orders to be placed before starting the manufacture.  The Kickstarter campaign will support three styles of top made from the yak wool. Tests show that the yak fibre is even warmer, lighter and more breathable than merino, so eventually he hopes to make a full range of yak baselayers including leggings, sweaters and hoodies.

You can find out more about Stefan’s company Peak to Plateau on the website and if you want to get involved, on the Kickstarter page.  There is also a great interview with him on the University of Canterbury’s website.

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