The prize for the most brilliantly random brand name that I‘ve found in New Zealand should go to Gina and Sean Higham for Spangled Ferret. As with most great ideas inspiration came to these two Brits after a couple of drinks and a bit of banter in the pub. They originally used it for their pub quiz team back in the U.K. When they moved over to New Zealand, to Waiheke Island, 18 months ago and started up their ethical clothing and jewellery brand the absurd but catchy monika was brought out of hibernation and the Spangled Ferret label was born. It has become quite a cult brand on the Island as Gina and Sean are regulars at the Saturday market where all of Waiheke’s creative community come to sell their wares. The signature fabric used for their hats, bags, shawls and cushions is a yarn from Nepal made out of recycled silk saris. Brightly multicoloured and soft, it makes a very warm and tactile fabric once knitted or woven. Gina originally knitted and crocheted everything herself until demand exceeded her knitting speed. Now she out sources the work to the same women’s cooperatives in Nepal who make the yarn paying them fair trade prices for all their work. A project coordinator in Nepal makes sure that poorest villages get the majority of the work.Gina has been working on the label full time since July 2005. Gradually over the last year she has added more products to the collection. The felt cushions like the silk sari yarn are made by women’s cooperatives in Nepal using, of all things, NZ wool. The Spangled Ferret jewellery range uses sterling silver and recycled glass beads sourced from Ghana. The T-shirts are all American Apparel and hand stencilled using water based paints. They are best sellers due to their bright colours and bold slogans such as ‘The People’s Republic of Waiheke’, ‘1240’, which was the original general postcode for Waiheke, and of course there’s the irrepressible Spangled Ferret logo. Other good sellers are the Trade Aid products which Gina started selling in January. This well established New Zealand brand of Fair Trade products are difficult to come by on the Island and the good quality of the food, coffee and delicious soaps means they’ve proved very popular.
It is clear that Gina has spent a lot of time and effort making sure all the products under the Spangled Ferret label are environmentally friendly, ethically sourced and Fair Trade. With a background in fashion and marketing she is now happy to finally be able to put her creative energy into something she really believes in. While Spangled Ferret in name and nature is a light hearted and colourfully cheerful brand it is obvious that behind the wit lies a passion to really try and make a difference. If you don’t get a chance to pass by the Saturday Market on Waiheke anytime soon you can contact Gina and Sean through their website. ::Spangled Ferret