July 2017

A visit to an iconic sock manufacturer in Norsewood.

Norsewear is an iconic NZ clothing company and brand based in Norsewood, just north of Dannevirke.

In 1963 Ola Rian, a knitter and sports enthusiast started up Norsewear Homecraft Ltd. The business operated in the Wellington suburb of Johnsonville.   At the time Ola Rian was the consul for Norway and was invited to celebrations in Norsewood. It is said that he was so taken by the place he decided to move the factory to Norsewood in 1967 or 68 or 69 - depending on who is telling the story.

Expansion in domestic and overseas sales led to a rapid expansion in manufacturing capacity. Bigger premises were acquired in 1980 to meet the ever-increasing demand.

In the early 2000s Norsewear products were being manufactured at the founding factory in Norsewood and at the former Oscar Eide factory in Wanganui (Norsewear purchased the Oscar Eide business in the late 90s). They were produced under the names – Norsewear, Norsetech, New Zealand Natural and Oscar Eide.

Around 2004 Burleigh Evatt bought a majority share of Norsewear which was said to have encouraged the company to review its operations in New Zealand and overseas.

Norsewear’s business then expanded into export markets including, Argentina, Australia, Switzerland, the United States of America and Japan.

The classic Farm Fleck sock was introduced in the 1960s.

Norswear was the first NZ knitter to add Gore-tex windstopper lining to their jerseys, creating a kiwi classic and the item is still a mainstay of their outdoor wear today.

Expansion saw the site producing $10,000,000 turnover in it’s peak with ownership changing hands three to four times in later years.

New Zealand Natural Clothing Ltd. (a former Norsewear brand) took over the retail site in 2007. The Kiwi Sock Company Ltd. took over production of socks and accessories. New technology has been added to the production process, creating many more options for features such as seamless toes, additional shaping and padding, and printing on to merino socks.