Posts Tagged ‘New Zealand’

Ms Possum, Intrepid Traveler and Fur Researcher

March 4, 2010

Hello Possums

Yep, it’s the big freeze in the Northern Hemisphere, but spare a thought for Ms Possum getting a tad hot under the collar in 97% humidity and temperatures in the high 20’s here in Auckland, New Zealand. Phew!

However, at the beginning of the year I was over your way just in time to experience the UK’s coldest winter in decades.  Yeah, had to go then as Possum NZ shut the factory for a few weeks, like any other self respecting manufacturer in this neck of the woods. This was my chance to research the fur scene away from home once more. The things I do for the sake of work, huh? It’s a tough life!

So, I’m in the UK freezing my little possum merino sox off and what better way to keep warm but to go shopping.  I didn’t need much inducement with all the 50-70% off sales in full swing and the newish Westfield undercover shopping mall at Shepherd’s Bush that went on forever – a girls’ paradise, if ever I saw one! Check out some of my pix from this colossus of a place:
Westfield, Shepherd's Bush, London Westfield, Shepherd's Bush, London Westfield, Shepherd's Bush, London Westfield, Shepherd's Bush, London Westfield, Shepherd's Bush, London Westfield, Shepherd's Bush, London Westfield, Shepherd's Bush, London
(Click on any of the images to see full size version on Flickr)

It was survival of the fittest here, as the bargains were worth fighting over and then there were queues for the changing rooms and at the checkouts.  It was retail at an adrenalin pumping, manic level that has to be seen to be believed.

I almost didn’t survive the “River Island” experience – more clothes on the floor than on the hangers and all these vicious females grabbing armfuls of goodies like there was no tomorrow! Argghhh! Yes Possums, the claws were out and I fought bravely, but the foe outnumbered me!

UGG Store at Westfield, Shepherd's Bush, London The above queues however, paled into insignificance to the looooong line snaking outside of the “Ugg Shop”.  Here were all these patient shoppers waiting in haphazard formation for up to 45 minutes (according to the security guard who only let a few in at a time) to spend 200 quid plus.  Yep, reverse psychology was being well used here – everyone else on sale but Ugg was holding its prices.  (Click on the image to see full size version on Flickr)

 

Why am I telling you this?

Well, I’ve just designed a new footwear range and mixed New Zealand possum fur with sheepskin, plus gone a tad dotty with our New Zealand Friesian Cow skin Moomoo range that has random spots plastered all over the show.

They look funky and feel delightfully soft and spongey on the inside.  I’ve also specified heavy duty gridded soles for the boots and non slip flexi soles for the slippers.  OK, they don’t have UGG written on the label, but they are seriously warm, durable and hand-cut wherever possible by Possum New Zealand. Plus you definitely won’t spend anywhere near 200 quid!  Check out our new footwear range today.

Then it was off to Barcelona where temperatures were a balmy 16 degrees and this is the place if you want it all – art, architecture, fashion, culture and the beach.  Nothing prepares you for the sheer scale and magnificence of Gaudi’s masterpieces.  The wait for the elevator to the top of one of Sagrada Familia’s steeples was truly worth it, as one can view at close range the sad faced statues clinging to the sides of the building – as if they were threatening to jump off – contrasted by the gigantic, boldly coloured first fruits to God speared through the pointed steeple tops. Antoni Gaudi was a genius and his other works were as quirky and original as he drew from nature and avoided straight lines wherever possible.
Sagrada Familia Steeples, Barcelona Gaudi Masterpieces, Barcelona
(Click on any of the images to see full size version on Flickr)

So, what has all this got to do with fashion?

A lot actually, the Catalan people are a happy lot and their exuberance for life is not limited to their amazing architecture, but infiltrates into every aspect of fashion.  The two labels I found so appealing were Desigual and Custos. The use of bright colour and blending of different textures, patterns and trim in these labels is mind blowing, and like Gaudi, a bit quirky and offbeat.

Here are some of my fashion pix taken in the thick of things in the Designer district of Passeig de Gracias and Las Ramblas:
Valentino, Designer District of Passeig de Gracias and Las Ramblas, Barcelona Valentino, Designer District of Passeig de Gracias and Las Ramblas, Barcelona Fur Fashion, Designer District of Passeig de Gracias and Las Ramblas, Barcelona Fur Fashion, Designer District of Passeig de Gracias and Las Ramblas, Barcelona Fur Fashion, Designer District of Passeig de Gracias and Las Ramblas, Barcelona Louis Vuitton, Designer District of Passeig de Gracias and Las Ramblas, Barcelona Store Entrance, Designer District of Passeig de Gracias and Las Ramblas, Barcelona Store Display, Designer District of Passeig de Gracias and Las Ramblas, Barcelona
(Click on any of the images to see full size version on Flickr)

Yes, faux fur or the real stuff is in vogue here and it inspires me to join up all my bright and gaudy babylamb and possum fur scraps and make a masterpiece or two!

Of course, the winner of Fur Central has to go to Italy once more.  This time, I was in Venice and it was magical.  Water, bridges, gondolas, glassware and masks abound at every turn.  Forget the map – the intricate labyrinth of cobbled lanes takes you out to multitudes of campos and piazzas, so my suggestion is just head for the Rialto Bridge (signs are everywhere) and digress anywhere you like in between, as the myriads of craft shops are sooo interesting.  

In the thick of Winter these elegant ladies thought nothing of coming out in their vintage mink coats and fur hats, and even dressing their mini pooches in like fashion.  They really need more possum fur over their way!!  Check out some Venetian fashion pix:
Fashion Masks, Venice Window Display, Venice Fur Fashion, Venice Window Display, Venice
(Click on any of the images to see full size version on Flickr)

So Possums, all this research means new things are in the offing – watch this space!

In the meantime, I’d love to deck you out in any of our warm possum fur, cowskin, or babylamb numbers – all made in New Zealand, largely from our workroom and all originally designed by Ms Possum herself. 

No excuse to freeze my little dahlings – we have everything to keep you snuggly warm!

So, be good and I look forward to hearing from my international hordes of hypothermic fellow critters real soon…

Regards,

 Ms Possum (Intrepid Traveler and International Fur Researcher)

Don’t shoot first and ask questions later

March 1, 2010

A family fresh to Auckland from the country, settled in the Huia Road area of Titirangi, which is part of the iconic Waitakere Ranges in West Auckland, New Zealand.  This area is famous for its scenic backdrop of native forests and woodlands, and has its own micro-climate. It is near the black-sand West Coast beaches which are spectacularly wild and beautiful; and the native flora and fauna thrive in this unspoilt habitat which is only 30 minutes from the Central Business District of Auckland City.

Settling in was a breeze as here was a log cabin type house in a peaceful bush setting, not unlike what they’d left behind in the country.

The first evening this new family discovered one big fat possum on the wooden veranda looking as if he owned the place and nonchalantly eating the remains of their dinner, totally unconcerned with the proximity of the new resident humans.

Mr Newby’s automatic response mechanism kicked in and the rifle came out and one shot was all it took. It was easy, as this obese possum was the ultimate in sitting targets. I mean that’s what any self respecting country boy would do, right?!

The neighbours called around the next morning to say “Hi”. Introductions and small talk ensued with Mr Newby waiting for the opportune moment to relate his superlative hunting prowess of the night before, when he was asked: “Have you seen Percy, by any chance?”

“Who’s Percy” asked all the Newby’s, wondering if they had another neighbour.

“Percy Possum. He comes for dinner every night as we all leave our leftovers out for him to enjoy. He’s quite an icon out this neck of the woods as he’s so friendly and adored by all and sundry. You’ll just love him.”

There was a deathly silence and then: “No, we have not seen Percy yet” was Mr Newby’s sheepish reply.

Mum Newby quickly put a tea towelled hand over her loud -mouth kid’s face, on the pretext of wiping any stray Weetbix crumbs, whilst hauling him directly to bathroom before anything incriminating could be deciphered from his muffled utterances.

Mr Newby was relieved the weapon used on the recently departed was stored securely away in the master bedroom closet and could not be used as circumstantial evidence against him. Full of guilt, he resolved from henceforth never to be a serial killer. But he would have to do a spot of gardening first to ensure Percy would never be found by his would-be accusers.

The moral of the story… don’t shoot first and ask questions later.

Another moral of the story is: Leave country behaviour back on the farm paddock when entering JAFA territory. (A “JAFA” is colloquial abbreviated slang for “Just Another F… Aucklander”. It is now applied as a term of endearment to over one quarter of New Zealand’s population who reside in this sprawling metropolis of a city.)

Poor Percy Possum!  It’s not as if the Newby’s could go into the local pet store and replace Percy Possum because it is illegal in New Zealand for possums to be farmed or bought as pets.

The size of Percy suggested he was a Primary Possum with a penchant for polygamy in his fiefdom in West Auckland, if our deductions are correct. That means his extended family, who can place their family “trees” back 150 years ago to when they first migrated from Australia, are mercilessly Percyless!

They await an opportune time to carry out “The Revenge of the Possums” debacle.  Newby’s beware – to coin the Pantene slogan: “It won’t happen overnight but it will happen” – be afraid, be very afraid… I’ve heard a hiss of goss regarding a pack of prickly possums going to party in someone’s roof shortly and it won’t be pretty!

As told by Rick, Possum Catcher Extraordinaire with profuse embellishments by the inimitable Ms Possum.

Ms Possum’s Country Sojourn

November 9, 2009

Well possums, sometimes Ms Possum works a bit too hard in the relentless fight against pests, so it was time for a country sojurn over a long weekend to get bright eyed and bushy tailed again!

So she was off to the outskirts of Blenheim, a sleepy town at the top of the South Island. The area is renowned for its endless hectares of vines which produce New Zealand’s world class Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and other amazing wine varieties. Ms Possum drinks nothing else during her nocturnal adventures in her hometown up North!

And, not only is the wine to die for, the region also produces mouth-watering olive oil and honey – it’s a gourmand’s paradise!

The bit of R&R gave me a chance to commune with animals other than those of my namesake. I must admit though, there were times when we ran over something lumpy on the road, and the evidence suggested that there were one or two less of my Possum friends for the Tannery; ugh! No, I wasn’t tempted to scrape the two-dimensional ex-life forms off the road – Ms Possum does have to maintain some semblance of dignity after all. Not only that, but I was on holiday!

Fortunately, no reputation had preceded me, so I was able to go incognito and meet the animals who lived nearby and welcomed me to their paddocks with open hooves.

The "mini" ponyThis mini pony literally bounced over to say “Hi”. He wanted to know what I had in my pockets and loved the tall stems of lush green grass I had picked for him. He did try to tell me that the stalk part was not palatable – ok, so I’m a city girl! I horse whispered to him for ages and he told me he wanted an all over head massage, which of course, I obligingly gave him.

The big horseNext it was to the big horse paddock. The two great big creatures were previously aloof, but mini pony must have put in a good word, because they soon stooped to give me some time of day. A bit of choice grass their way helped to break the ice between us.

Apartheid free lambs

The two black and two white sheep next door proved that apartheid doesn’t exist in their neck of the woods. After baa-ing at me initially as an unwelcome interloper, they also succumbed to the succulent culinary items on offer. Thank goodness they didn’t know I produced baby lamb jackets!

Koko the CatAt the mud brick house bordering a vineyard where I was staying, was KoKo the Birman cat. He was delighted at Ms Possum’s visit and couldn’t resist disguising his legs with one of Possum New Zealand’s “Harlequin” striped possum fur scarves. Yep, there is something about possum fur that sends cats into Seventh Heaven. KoKo loves chasing his possum off-cut which is attached to a lead – keeps him amused for ages!

Peeking HareLo and behold, we spotted a pesky little hare playing peek-a-boo with us down the driveway. Unfortunately, the South Island is overrun with these creatures that eat anything and everything growing in the area – it’s quite a problem for the fruit and vege growers, as well as the native flora and fauna. Perhaps there is the making of a new industry here… hmmm…

Possum the DogJust as I was forgetting myself, I met a friend’s dog inadvertently named after me! Yep, “Possum” is super hyper, super friendly and finds it hard to sit still. Naturally, I felt an immediate affinity with this beautiful dog, and I thought possums of one kind or another are always popping into my life!

Then it was on to visit another friend who lives in a beautiful three-acre estate, bordering a stream. Sipping tea in the sumptuously appointed living room, complete with possum fur throw, I spied a huge rifle nonchalantly placed against the burr walnut dresser near the front door. “It’s to shoot the starlings in the roof” I was told after I expressed surprise at this incongruous, non designer décor item. “But of course” I said, suspecting every Blenheim home had one. Obviously my host was a crack shot, because I didn’t notice one buckshot hole in the pristine ceiling! It was reassuring to know that someone else had to deal with pest problems, and suddenly Ms Possum felt she was not entirely alone in her crusade to restore nature to its correct equilibrium.

Back on the road, I encountered other creatures such as herds of Friesian cows’ dotted (excuse the pun) in amongst the vineyards. As we didn’t get a chance to stop to take another pic, my hosts kindly obliged me with a “mock moo-moo” in my quarters (excuse the alliteration). Mock Moo Moo

So there you have it, Ms Possum goes rural, meets other critters and broadens her outlook on the animal kingdom. It was a lovely weekend meeting creatures great and small. Now it’s back to the animal Ms Possum knows best, as she prepares to keep the Northern Hemisphere “warm as a bug in a rug” for the coming winter.

See y’all later Possums!

From Ms Possum wearing New Zealand Swandrii Jacket and Gumboots (possum fur trimmed of course!)

Possum Obituary

October 27, 2009

Rick is still successfully employed transporting our furry friends to the next dimension.  He’s very good at his job and in high demand. 

Just the other day, Rick was called to remove a sleeping soot-encrusted possum that had free fallen from the roof down the flue of a Kent fireplace.  A “Kent” is a New Zealand woodburner and the flues are normally very long and thin – so he must have been a very skinny critter!

Possum found in fireplaceTrouble was the little rascal woke up and started decorating the Kent glass door with an etching pattern that could hardly be deemed a work of art, so the offender was quickly sent to meet his maker.  We take  solace  in the fact that  the Kent was not used as an indoor crematorium.  The deceased is grateful   he has  escaped the eternal damnation of the fires of hell.  The home owners are grateful that the chimney sweep does not now  have to come in for another year.

May our furry friend’s soul rest in peace.  He probably had a very good life, and it’s nice to know that a part of him lives on in Aunty Ruby’s organic vegetable garden.

Remember, if you have a crazy possum story to tell, drop us a line and we may even publish it!  Email Ms Possum at info@possumnz.co.nz

The 1080 Poison Debate

August 8, 2008

Opponents of 1080 poison have always argued that it not only kills the Possums, but other species as well.

 

According to the New Zealand Environmental Risk Agency, the benefits are greater than the risks. Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick said

 

We know that there is some impact on other species, but the major threat to most New Zealand wildlife is from predators, such as possums, stoats and rats.

 

It appears anti-1080 lobby groups fears are being realised. Following a recent 1080 drop on the West Coast, seven Kea parrots died. A protected species, there are fewer than five thousand Kea’s left in the wild. There have also been recent reports of farmed Deer and domestic animals being poisoned.

 

1080 poison (or Sodium monofluoroacetate) is dropped in pellet form into New Zealand’s rugged backcountry to control the spread of pests. It works by stopping animals from producing energy from food. They then die from heart or respiratory failure.

 

Whilst the Department of Conservation (DOC) have always defended the use of 1080, there is concern internally. A recent report published in some New Zealand newspapers said:

 

Aerial 1080 may well be a significant threat to the kea population with some drops probably devastating.

 

There has been recent concern of the actions of 1080 protestors with an animal control officer’s dog being poisoned and 1080 poison being sent to some government agencies.

 

This is an issue that seems to stir up a lot of emotion – on both sides of the coin.

 

Many are concerned that the indiscriminate aerial drops of 1080 pose a major threat to our endemic fauna, not to mention the potential for poisoning the water supply and threatening our ‘clean green’ image.

Fur Farming vs. Wild Fur

July 21, 2008

The fur farming industry began in the late nineteenth century in Canada. Since then, demand for fur-farmed pelts has grown and now makes up 85% of the worlds fur supply. The vast majority of farmed animals are mink and fox. The methods for killing the pelts vary from species to species.

While fur farming is banned in many countries, the traditional fur farming regions are North America and Northern Europe. However, in recent years China has become the world’s largest importer and re-exporter of fur.

There was a major decline in demand for fur during the 1990’s, largely due to concerns regarding the inhumane treatment of the animals, and the assertion that animal welfare was being sacrificed for profit. Since the year 2000 there has been a climbing demand for fur, and this resurgence has coincided with a rise in disposable income in lands like China and Russia.

Fur Farm

As with most types of farming, the conditions that animals are kept in are varied. For example, in cages minks (generally solitary animals) display negative behaviour such as endless pacing. Another factor that gives cause for concern is the build-up of fecal matter. This is often cited as a cause for poor animal health.

Fur trappers argue that fur from animals that live their whole lives in the wild is of better quality.

New Zealand’s burgeoning Possum eco-fur industry is strictly ‘free-range’. Because New Zealand has no native land mammals (other than the Pekapeka or Bat) there is no farmed-fur industry. The importation of mink is banned, so the only fur-bearing species is the feral Australian Brushtail Possum.

With over 70 million Possums having a negative impact on the eco-system, trapping plays an integral part in the Possum eradication strategy.

In New Zealand gin traps have been prohibited through by-laws, but there have been concerns regarding how humane the leg-hold traps are. From January 2008, the New Zealand government has introduced strict new laws regarding what traps can be used, in an effort to minimize suffering and distress for the Possums.

New Zealand Native Bush

The wild Possum fur is magnificent, particularly if it comes from the South Island of New Zealand. The verdant native bush provides plenty of food for the Possum to grow large, and the colder climate results in a thicker fur – just perfect for our warm Possum Fur throws!

While humane fur farms will never go away, we believe that New Zealand Possum fur is the best alternative.

By purchasing garments made from feral Possum fur, you’re helping with our eradication plan, and getting a wonderfully warm product. Plus, since the Possum is so abundant, there is no shortage of raw materials. This means that compared to furs like mink and fox, Possum is incredibly economical. Buy a Possum and save a forest!

The Birds and the Bees – and the Possum

July 4, 2008

Mt NgauruhoeThis amorous email came into the Possum NZ office last week and had us all in stitches! We especially liked the onomatopoeia (very ’60’s Batman adventure). Thanks Frances your possie pressie’s in the mail.

Hi Possums! I’ve got a small “Possum Tail” to tell, or Possum Tale to be more exact.

I was a young wife, we had been married for about a year, and every weekend we used to think of interesting things to do. When a long weekend loomed, we laid our plans to go hiking in National Park. So on Thursday we packed our gear in the car, and straight after work on Friday we were off like a rocket to Taupo for dinner, then onwards to National Park. We stayed in a Motel on Friday night, then began our long tramp up to the Ketetahi Hut, on the side of Mt Ngauruhoe on the Saturday morning. Ah, bliss!

A lovely fine, sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. Birds calling, the bush was fragrant and lush, and there was hardly another soul on the track. We took our time, paused often, and savoured our climb through the tree-line and on, up to the hut. We arrived in the late afternoon, tired, happy and ready for our evening meal and an early night. As recent newly-weds, this had an extra special meaning for us, as you can imagine. And there were no other hikers staying over − we were alone in the Hut!
Hmmmmm, all good.

Dinner was prepared, eaten by candle-light, we talked together while wrapped in our sleeping bags, and happily finished our mugs of hot chocolate. Meanwhile, the temperature dropped and darkness fell – revealing the splendid, mountain view of the Southern Cross constellation and the starry sky. Very romantic.

Then to bed. We’d put our mattresses side by side on the floor beside the fireplace. Snuggled down together… things were proceeding as they should when SUDDENLY − at a certain critical moment − WHOOSH, WHAM, THUD, and SCREECHES of TERROR from all THREE parties present!

A HORRIBLE experience for us all. The MALE HUMAN who was severely compromised when so rudely interrupted; the FEMALE HUMAN who felt the thud of a heavy, hairy, and smelly live object; and the POSSUM itself.

I dont know if the Possum was a girl or a boy, but it got such a fright at our frightened reactions, it’s claws ripped our sleeping bags as it gathered itself up and ran quickly back up the wooden walls of the hut. Back into the rafters, back into whatever dark and inaccessible corner it lurked in, never to be seen again.

We didn’t look for it. We were too warm in our sleeping bags, and too tired from our hike. But it took awhile to get to sleep !

That’s my Possum story, from 1973. And it’s true. But I never would have thought that a Possum would, or could, fall from the rafters. Perhaps it was distracted?

If you’ve got a Possum story, we’d love to hear it. Email it to us and we’ll pop it on the blog and send you a ‘possie-pressie’ to say thanks.