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Beyond the Bale : Feb - Mar 08
PROFILE Andrew Bews and Shane Williams Activewear entrepreneurs Wool helps the hot and sweaty chill out Australian Wool Innovation Limited AWI, GPO Box 4177, Sydney NSW 2001 There are not too many textile or fashion businesses that can attribute growth and success to two of the grimmest news stories of the decade -- global warming and the conflict in Iraq. Nonetheless, these two ongoing events have been business catalysts for a relatively new Queensland-based clothing manufacturer, Arctic Heat. The idea for the company, whose name aptly captures the problem facing anyone wrestling with climate change, was hatched after long hot training sessions on Brisbane's Gabba football ground. Central to the business plan was Australian Merino wool, in particular the SportwoolTM innovation developed by The Woolmark Company. Cold-climate born and bred, Andrew Bews, a former Geelong captain and 300-game AFL veteran, moved to Queensland to play for the Brisbane Lions in the mid-1990s. He quips that by then he was "old and hot" and found it difficult to cool down after training sessions. His good mate, Shane Williams, the Brisbane club's trainer, had a passion for sports science and started looking for ways to help. His efforts began with rudimentary cotton vests packed with ice bricks and have now evolved into their Arctic Heat enterprise, which specialises in the design and manufacture of cooling vests.The vests are now used by many of the country's elite sports people, including most AFL teams and the Australian cricket team, and also by Australia's 1600 soldiers in Iraq. The vests are also finding their way into the wardrobes of miners, the sick and elderly, construction workers and even menopausal women -- anyone who needs help cooling down. The success Andrew and Shane have achieved since beginning their research into cooling vests in 1996 has had a lot to do with the fact their quest eventually led them to Shane Williams PHOTO: BRAD COLLIS was trapped under a car that crashed into her childcare centre, had hot pink vests specially made by Arctic Heat. The concept behind the vests is now being used to make medical blankets and pads, which can be used by ambulance officers and hospital staff to treat heart attack victims. Research has found that by quickly cooling blood-flow, even when a person has stopped breathing, the chances of survival and recovery are improved. Shane says that, at the moment, a patient can only be cooled quickly in intensive care and with cumbersome, expensive equipment or with bags of ice. The company has recently negotiated with a global distributor to start marketing and selling the medical cool- down kits at a price that will make them affordable to medical services (about $330). Meanwhile, the ice vests have already become a standard part of the kit issued to every soldier heading to Iraq. The company's turnover is up 50 per cent on the previous year, and Shane and Andrew are keen to use this momentum to stay a step ahead of competitors and explore 'next generation' cooling agents. While the vests are the biggest part of their business, the partners have also developed other cooling products using the same technology. "Woolmark has kept us up to date on the latest fabrics and we will continue that relationship with AWI," Shane says. At this stage, the vests are only available through selected workwear retailers, but direct orders can be made with the company. -- KELLIE PENFOLD More information: www.arcticheat.com.au CSIRO,Woolmark and SportwoolTM. SportwoolTM, with its unique inner layer of fine wool which wicks sweat off the skin, lines the inside of the vests, which are fitted with pockets of gel.The gel is 'activated' by freezing the garment and dipping it in cold water prior to wearing. On a warm day when you see a footballer run to the bench and grab a jacket, it is usually an Arctic Heat vest, which is dipped into a nearby bucket of cold water. During quarter- time breaks, players are outfitted in vests taken onto the ground in a wheelie bin filled with an ice slurry. Shane says Australian Merino wool turned out to be the ideal basis for the vests' construction: "We needed a fabric that cooled you down when you were hot and warmed you if you were cold -- in other words a fabric that helped regulate your body temperature." He says it also absorbs body moisture without the wearer feeling wet. "It is comfortable next to the skin, which is very important because some people, like cricketers, wear them under their uniforms." While the science behind the cooling process is quite complex, Shane explains that in basic terms the vest works by cooling the skin which cools the blood flow close to the surface. As blood circulates around the body it cools internal organs and improves blood flow to muscles, helping recovery and reducing strain. Also, as the body sweats less, the risk of dehydration is reduced. For the same reasons that it helps sports people, the vests have found another market in medical care -- helping regulate body temperature for people such as multiple sclerosis sufferers or burns victims. Sydney toddler Sophie Delezio, who captured the nation's heart in 2003 after suffering severe burns when she
Feb - Mar 08 Supplement
Apr - May 08