The survival of a historical icon

After teetering on the edge of closing, find out how Waverley Mills got its groove back.

Waverley Mills is Australia’s oldest working textile mill. It was built in 1874 on the idyllic banks of Distillery Creek in Launceston, Tasmania, and is still fully operational today. 

When first established, Waverley Mills boasted 80 percent of the Australian blanket market. More recently its woollen blankets were supplied to Qantas for first class and business passengers. Waverley Mills has also had a brush with royalty!

The CEO Andrew Cuccurullo recalls: “It was a last minute gift idea from the Government to send one of our baby blankets as a gift for Princess Charlotte. The blanket was ordered online and the mill got a call from the Prime Minister's office a few days later saying it was going to be made public. When it was made public we had a run on the baby blankets which was fantastic for the mill.”

Waverley Mills has outlasted two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the decimation of the Australian manufacturing industry. The latter has proved the biggest threat to its survival. The wool manufacturing industry in Australia has virtually died. Today, most of our wool gets exported in its raw state to be processed in China. We then buy it back as fabric or finished goods.

Despite their well oiled equipment, expert staff, and beautiful designs, Waverley Mills has suffered greatly from globalisation in the 21st century. In early 2018 the company took action by launching a crowdfunding campaign. “It was a way for us to understand what Waverley meant to people and if there was any interest in Australian made products,” Andrew says. Their goal was to raise funds to buy wool. Lots of wool.

In their words: “Wool is the fuel that keeps our mill going. 95% of our products are made from wool. It’s our biggest expense. And buying wool will allow us to meet demand, increase production, create jobs, innovate, and take our products to the rest of the world.”

The campaign was a smashing success. “We had an overwhelming amount of support and we hit our target amount in 10 days. The campaign ended with double our target,” Andrew says.

With the support of this capital and the community behind them, Waverley Mills is moving full stream ahead – commissioning new designs, expanding product lines, and pursuing partnerships with the likes of Koskela!

We are proud to stock their blankets made from the finest quality wool and alpaca sourced in Australia, and as much as possible Tasmania. The various contemporary styles we carry are designed by award-winning duo Rina Bernabei and Kelly Freeman of bernabeifreeman. “I had always admired their design ethos and design perspective,” says Andrew. “Their eye for detail and colour is amazing. They were able to adapt their design capabilities to textiles very quickly and it's been a great collaboration.”

The quality of Waverley Mills blankets is so good, they are backed by a lifetime warranty. So as the mercury starts to plummet and you want to wrap yourself up in a cocoon, there really is no better option.