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Aussie mill secured with plans for development
Woolgrower Floyd Legge who is Chairman of new company Australian Textile Investments that in June bought and now manages Geelong Textile Group. Mr Legge is pictured here in 2019 wearing his wedding suit made from his own wool that was woven and dyed at Geelong Textile Group (right).
A new company headed by woolgrower Floyd Legge of Cudal in the Central West of NSW has purchased Geelong Textile Group with the aim to identify opportunities for business growth for the Victoria-based wool textile manufacturing company.
Geelong Textile Group, which comprises Geelong Textiles Australia and Geelong Dyeing, has operated and specialised in Australian wool since 1920, creating quality upholstery and apparel fabrics for commercial and domestic use.
After it went on the market last year for the first time in 50 years, the iconic Geelong-based textile business in June was purchased – and is now being managed by – by a new company Australian Textile Investments (ATI), chaired by Floyd Legge of Ridgehaven Poll Dorsets, based in Cudal, NSW. He is a sixth-generation pastoralist whose family has been involved with fine Merino wool-growing for more than 150 years.
“While I will continue to maintain an active interest in the family wool-growing enterprise, along with my fellow ATI investors we view the purchase of the Geelong Textile Group as a positive and strategic move into an associated industry. All of us have a passion for developing a uniquely Australian product and we believe that the Geelong Textile Group has capability to do so,” Mr Legge said.
Prior experience with wool processing
“My first introduction to the Geelong Textile Group occurred in 2019 when I needed some of our family-grown fine Merino wool woven and dyed to make fabric for the suits that my groomsmen and I wore for my wedding,” Mr Legge said.
“It was a wonderful experience – taking a raw Australian product and turning it into a luxury fabric, right here in Australia.”
This experience in 2019 with the practical side of wool textile production followed on from Mr Legge’s participation the previous year in the young woolgrower study tour to China, organised by AWI, during which he visited several of China’s largest wool processing and manufacturing plants.
While at the time Mr Legge was simply keen to learn about the journey wool takes after it leaves the farm gate, the trip has ultimately and unexpectedly resulted in the new business venture for him and ATI securing the Australian ownership of Geelong Textile Group.
Opportunities for business growth
Mr Legge says ATI is committed to identifying opportunities for business expansion, building on the already excellent manufacturing values inherent in Geelong Textile Group.
“We knew at the time of purchase that we would need to relocate the weaving mill. Since then, we have secured the lease of the neighbouring property to the dye house. This will allow for greater efficiencies and integration of the services we offer through Geelong Textiles Australia. Geelong Dyeing will remain in its current location for the foreseeable future,” he said.
“All staff and management have been offered continuing employment with ATI. We have also identified areas for growth in both businesses. This has the potential for additional employment, particularly for those with previous experience in the textile industry.”
Securing wool manufacturing in Australia
Mr Legge says ATI purchased the textile businesses to secure wool manufacturing within Australia.
“Now is a great time to focus on the manufacturing of textiles in Australia. Major disruption has been inflicted on the global supply chain following COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine, with freight costs increasing by 1000% and delays of up to six months becoming the new normal.
“We want to offer customers a better experience, quality products, shorter manufacturing timeframes, delivery on time and less volatility. We are committed and well positioned to expand on the future of wool textile manufacturing within Australia.”
High quality fabrics
Mr Legge says the team at Geelong Textile Group combines 150+ years of local manufacturing experience.
“For our customers we value quality, sustainability and are committed to creating the highest quality commercial upholstery and apparel fabrics. We produce fabrics using 100% Australian wool, wool blends and alternative fibres,” he said.
“We specialise in design, commission Dobby or Jacquard weaving of durable, certified, and tested domestic or commercial fabrics for school or corporate apparel, furnishing for public spaces, auditoriums, transport, and screens. Batch sizes start at 240m for the weaving mill and 50m at the dye house, whereas a minimum order from overseas suppliers would be 1000m.”
The Dobby loom can weave a plain or geometric pattern including stripes and checks with four to five different colours. The Jacquard loom presents greater opportunities for unlimited design given each thread in the warp can be controlled individually. Every metre of fabric made is inspected by a technician before dispatch.
Innovation and market development
Mr Legge says by expanding on its core services of commission weaving, dyeing, and finishing, Geelong Textiles Australia has diversified into a wide range of domestic products.
“We have woollen upholstery fabrics and a home textiles range, including blankets, tea towels under the brand of Geelong Weaving Mill. This represents a growth market for the company,” he said.
“In addition, Geelong Dyeing has also developed a stock service, producing machine knitting yarn and wool tops, which are available in stock and custom colours.
“We intend to continue this tradition of innovation and market development under our plans for the company.”
This article appeared in the September 2022 edition of AWI’s Beyond the Bale magazine. Reproduction of the article is encouraged.