Our History

Knight of New Zealand Ltd was originally founded in 1972 under the name Knight Tailors Ltd  As this name suggests, the Company started in the bespoke tailoring (made to measure suit) business, but soon moved into the fledgling leather and suede garment industry in New Zealand. Before long, export markets were developed in Australia (1973) followed by the USA (1976). Shortly after, the Company was purchased by Multi-National, Fletcher Challenge Corporation.

 

In 1985 the senior management and marketing executives of Knights purchased the Company in a management buyout from Fletcher Challenge. It was at this time that the Company moved to its current building at 21 Leven Street, Invercargill, New Zealand (refer photo).

In 1990 the Company name was changed to Knight of New Zealand Ltd, to reflect the International nature of the business and the fact that the Company no longer did any tailoring. However, the tailoring background has enhanced Knight’s ability to “customise” garments for their clients.

The company is headed by managing director John Rhodes
Knight of New Zealand

Knight’s is still owned by the original management and marketing shareholder group, with the addition of Phil Mollison (Australian marketing office) and Peter Coggs of Munich, Germany who is the exclusive marketing agent for Knights in Europe.

In more recent years, the Company has specialised in producing lightweight lamb skin garments.

Some famous celebrities that have purchased Knight garments

Singer – Cher

Musician – Jose Feliciano

Chelsea Clinton (Daughter of President Clinton)

Prince Edward of England

Famous Chinese Actress – Yao Chen

Famous Chinese Actress – Liu Sisi

Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand, Xu Jianguo

Babylamb Shearling coats for Australian Olympic Team
In 2002 Knight of New Zealand made headlines by winning the contract to make the Australian Olympic team’s opening ceremony coats for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, USA. The 3/4 length coats made from a specially dyed *Terracotta coloured Babylamb Shearling were all individually custom made for each of the 86 athletes and officials taking part. The garments also had a specially embossed leather label with the Official Australian Olympic team Logo, also supplied by Knights. The story broke in Australia and New Zealand at the official uniform preview in Melbourne, that a New Zealand company had supplied an important part of the Australian National Team uniform. The story caused controversy in both countries and made National Network news, as many Australian companies objected to an “overseas” company winning the contract! In defence of their decision, the Australian Olympic Organizing Committee commented that Knight’s were the only company in the region who could make the garments to the high-quality standard and tight time frame required and deliver a consistent natural product. * Skins were dyed this colour to reflect the “Red soils” of Australia.
Knight achieves International standard of quality
In 1994 the company achieved the Internationally recognised quality standard ISO9001, followed 12 months later by ISO9002 for excellence also in design. These ratings mean that Knight of New Zealand has achieved the highest possible rating in terms of quality of product, systems and customer satisfaction. The ISO9002 standard adds to this achievement excellence in design standards.
Knight’s garment “Ambassador” for New Zealand exports
A Knight garment took part in a diplomatic exchange between New Zealand and Canada. Following a visit to the factory from then Prime Minister of New Zealand the Right Honourable David Lange in 1989, the New Zealand Government commissioned Knights to make a Shearling garment for the Prime Minister of Canada Mr. Brian Mulroney, as a gift from the people of New Zealand.
Award-winning export garments
Knight of New Zealand has won a number of Fashion and Export awards: In 1977 the New Zealand Government awarded the Company its first Export Award and, in the same year, Knights won the Benson & Hedges Fashion Award for Ladies & Men’s Sports outerwear. For the next five years in succession, Knights won High Priority Exporter awards from the New Zealand Government. This was crowned in 1985 with the Governor Generals Award for exporting. This prestigious award is presented annually to only one company in the whole country, and Knights beat off much larger companies in attaining this. The Governor General of the time Sir Paul Reeves, together with Lady Reeves, visited the Invercargill factory to celebrate this occasion.
Some famous celebrities that have purchased Knight garments
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Babylamb Shearling coats for Australian Olympic Team
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Knights archives International standards of quality
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Knight’s garment “Ambassador” for New Zealand exports
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Award-winning export garments
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knight quality garment-Knight of New Zealand Craftsman Guarantee Label
Creating A Garment
Every individually made Knight garment has our Craftsman Guarantee label permanently attached. This label is signed by the person that matches and cut the skins and the person who crafts the finished garment.
Individual Craftsmanship

All Knights garments are cut and made individually. Unlike most clothing that is mass produced on production lines, every garment is treated as a “one-off”. A good comparison would be a hand built car compared to cars produced on a production line system. Because these garments are made from a natural product, each one has it’s own unique characteristics and no two garments are exactly the same.

knight matching-Knight of New Zealand
Skin Matching
The lamb skins are dyed in batches of around 800 skins in large dye drums at the tannery. However each skin is quite unique and although they are dyed in the same batch, there are many variations in colour, texture and wool types. Depending on the style, it usually takes around 25-30 skins to make one garment. The skill in matching the skins is to take this very inconsistent material and produce a consistent end product.
Pattern Laying-Knight of New Zealand
Pattern Laying
Most garments will use around 25 to 30 skins each. Because these skins are so small, the cutting yields are very low. Knights only use the prime area of each skin meaning that a good cutting yield is only 44%! Before the pattern can be placed on each skin, natural flaws and blemishes on both sides of the skin are marked so that these areas can be avoided when laying the pattern.
Cutting & Shaving-Knight of New Zealand
Cutting & Shaving
Each garment is individually cut using the lines that have been marked in by the pattern layer. Areas of the panels that will overlap such as the seams and hem of the garment are then shaved to prevent too much bulk and to enhance the drape of the garment. Special surgical clippers are used to leave a smooth finish for the machinist.
Stitching a garment-Knight of New Zealand
Stitching a garment
The sewing machines that are used are industrial heavy duty machines known as “walking foot” machines. Because the raw materials used are quite bulky compared to fabrics, the machine “foot” which would normally just ride over the fabric has been made into a two part foot that steps over the skins as it sews. These machines are not automated, the skill in sewing lies with the machinist. Being a natural material, each skin is unique and needs to be handled differently which is a skill that cannot be automated. An average garment takes around 4.5 hours to sew.
Groom & Hand Finishing-Knight of New Zealand
Groom & Hand Finishing
After being sewn, each garment is then transferred to the grooming and finishing area. When the seams are sewn, the wool which is trapped under the stitches has to be hand combed out. Both the inside and outside of the garment is groomed and any loose threads etc. are removed. The inside is also vacuumed to remove any loose wool particles. If the garment has buttons attached these are hand sewn onto the garment as they are usually made from a natural material such as horn and therefore irregular shaped. Hand sewn and shanked buttons are far more secure than those attached by machine.
Inspection & Packing-Knight of New Zealand
Inspection & Packing
Every garment is inspected both inside and out before packing for shipping. A “breathable” garment carry/ storage bag is also supplied with every garment for storage and protection. Garments should not be stored in plastic/ polythene bags particularly in warm climates as this can promote mould.
Knight’s unique Lambskin Warmth without weight
Knight’s specialise in super lightweight lamb skins, this material maintains its warmth but is much lighter in weight than the more traditional “sheepskin coats”. Due to the very small size of the skins, an average garment will use approximately 25 of these super lightweight skins. These are all known as”double face” skins because the wool is still attached to the skins (double face meaning 2-sided). Because these skins are so lightweight. the garments are very easy to wear and are ideal for commuting as they can comfortably be worn over the top of a business suit or sports jacket. lambskin-Knight of New Zealand
New Zealand OPOSSUM FUR Trichosurus Vulpecula possum_fur-Knight of New Zealand
fox fur-Knight of New Zealand New Zealand Opossum is not a protected species and is in fact a pest to the New Zealand native fauna and flora. As such, it is not listed on the CITES International agreement for protected species. Originally introduced from Australia in the early 1800’s for hunting and for its prized fur, the population has exploded to an estimated 8 million animals! Unlike in its original habitat it has no natural predators, hence the population boom. The New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) regularly carries out culls to try to combat this growth as these animals eat tons of natural vegetation every day,  threatening our native fauna and bird wildlife. Knights use this fur as a trim on many of our garments, but also make full Opossum fur bed throws in sizes from Single to super California King.  
Knight of New Zealand

Every Knight of New Zealand garment is individually made, rather than mass produced. We call this “commercial craft” as opposed to mass production.

Knight of New Zealand
Knight Care & Cleaning-Knight of New Zealand
Care And Cleaning
  • Every Knight Lambskin garment is full dry-cleanable.
  • Dry cleaning should be carried out before your garment gets too heavily solid but ONLY BY A SPECIALIST LEATHER and SUEDE GARMENT DRY CLEANER
GARMENT DRY CLEANER
  • Full cleaning instructions for use by the dry cleaner are permanently sewn into the garment.
  • If your garment becomes rain spotted, do not brush while damp. Hang the garment to dry naturally on a well-shaped coat hanger away from excess sun, wind and artificial heat sources.
On no account should the garment be force dried. Once the rain spots have completely dried, brush lightly with a soft garment brush to bring to the “nap” of the suede and the rain spots will disappear.
  • Please note – this product is not waterproof.
  • Never put a damp garment away in a cupboard or wardrobe, wait until the garment is completely dry.
  • Always store your garment well away from direct, strong sunlight as the special dyes that are used for natural skins are sensitive to strong ultra-violet sunlight.
If you follow the simple procedures, your Knight garment will retain its good looks for many years.