Modern Australian knitwear brand makes trade fair debut

A family history of wool production and a passion for Australian-made products led to the creation of knitwear brand Jude, which debuted at Life Instyle last month.

Founder Ali Wanchap Wood launched Jude in May 2013 after a year of business and product development, but the idea had been around for much longer. “The idea of Jude had been brewing in my mind for many years, really from when I was in my early 20s,” she explains. “I had always wanted to create products that championed beautiful quality Australian wool.

“My family heritage is deeply entrenched in wool production and the Australian bush, and with so many fond memories of times on family farms, I’ve always had a great admiration and appreciation for wool.”

Wanchap Wood has kept this family tradition alive by naming all of Jude’s products after family members, properties and beloved family horses, while the brand name was inspired by her maternal grandfather. She has also followed in the footsteps of her grandmother who ran a successful wool brand in the 1980s.

“She and her sister-in-law hand spun, hand dyed and hand knitted beautiful jumpers (and even wedding dresses) out of wool sourced from their farms in the New England area of New South Wales. I’m quite nostalgic about the past and draw a lot of inspiration from old family pictures and memories of time spent on the farms.”

This connection to the land meant creating an Australian-made product was extremely important to Wanchap Wood. “I am very passionate about Australian-made products, and Australian wool—it is Jude’s heart and soul. There is such a beautiful element of craftsmanship about knitting, and I want to try to help keep that alive in Australia as much as possible. It is wonderful to see that people (designers and consumers alike) are recognising the importance of Australian-made products, and are supporting these specialist trades to live on in Australia.”

Exhibiting for the first time at Life Instyle was a positive experience for Wanchap Wood, as she was able to see visitors interacting with her products. “Knitwear is such a tactile experience, and especially Jude knitwear—it is made from the finest quality merino wool, which is silky soft. It was wonderful to see the reactions from retailers as they were able to touch, feel and interact with my products. It was lovely to see such positive reactions to the quality of the product, because that is what it’s all about for me.”

Jude is currently stocked in four states, and the range includes products for women, men, home and baby, along with an all-natural wool wash. “At this stage, I have a select group of stockists. They are all beautiful lifestyle boutique stores, they place great importance on quality and where the product comes from. I look forward to finding more lovely stores like this for Jude to find a home in.”