Armadillo Merino was founded in 2011 with a remarkable ambition – to save the lives of soldiers by changing the clothes they wear.
Co-founder, Andy Caughey, explains: “I saw that soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan were being fried, because they were wearing synthetic base layers. The heat of IEDs was melting these garments into the skin and nobody was doing anything about it.
“I was raised on a sheep station, I studied agriculture at university and I went on to work at the Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand. I knew that the natural properties of Merino wool could be the answer.”
Armadillo finds a natural solution to a man-made problem
Andy had worked with Merino fibre throughout the supply chain – from fashion and performance clothing brands to soft furnishing and automotive manufacturers.
He knew that through selective sheep breeding and modern production techniques, Merino garments could be created, which offer enhanced levels of safety, performance and comfort for soldiers in combat environments. Not only are they heat and flame resistant, they also regulate body temperature while remaining odour free.
“When you start a business, you need to make sure you’ve got a clearly differentiated offering,” says Andy. “We needed something very compelling versus all of the other generic products out there.”
And so Armadillo Merino was born.
Armadillo expands from the armed forces to astronauts
Today, Armadillo supplies high-performance, next-to-skin garments to military and special forces, search and rescue teams, and even explorers and astronauts. The company’s partnership with James and James Fulfilment has been essential to this growth.
“James and James was the first warehouse we approached back in 2011,” explains Andy.
We integrated right from the get go and it’s removed so much complexity.
While Armadillo ships its largest bulk orders directly to B2B customers, James and James handles its B2C eCommerce orders and smaller B2B orders for sampling and trialling.
“The whole eCommerce integration was simple and straightforward. It means we can automate our Shopify and Amazon stores,” says Andy. “An order goes through and we know that 99% of the time, it’ll be dispatched that day and arrive tomorrow.”
James and James gives the reliability that NASA demands
Having trust in your fulfilment partner is a must, when – like Armadillo – you’re dealing with customers such as NASA.
“We’ve been working with NASA for around four years, supplying garments to astronauts on the International Space Station and for ground-based research,” explains Andy. “Space is a such hostile environment, but the inherent performance properties of wool have proven it to be most suitable for maintaining the health and wellbeing of astronauts.
“Recently, we had an urgent order for 22 different size and style garments. We had to get the garments from the UK to the US, through customs and our distributor there, and out to NASA in Houston in less than five working days. James and James was able to deliver.”
Merino becomes a year-round choice for high performance
While continuing to build its B2B business, Armadillo plans to grow its B2C sales globally, reaching new customers in new countries, by offering them a safer, more comfortable alternative to synthetic fabrics.
“Customers associate wool with colder months, which means a lot of our sales coincide with the main shopping days from Black Friday to Christmas.” says Andy. “It sounds counterintuitive, but Merino is actually the coolest fabric you can wear in summer.
“When you get the Merino weight and knit structure right, it makes for a very light garment, which handles heat and perspiration much better than cotton or synthetics. When you wear synthetics, you’re basically wearing a plastic bag with holes in it – you sweat sooner and faster, burn more calories and lose more moisture.”
Armadillo sheds light on the dangers of synthetic clothing
Beyond the performance advantages of Merino over synthetics, there are also vital environmental and health advantages, which Armadillo Merino is highlighting to consumers.
“People are aware of the importance of eating well and regularly exercising, but don’t consider the dangers of absorbing clothing toxins when wearing synthetic apparel,” he explains. “Synthetic clothing has also been shown to enter the environment as microplastics, polluting our waterways and oceans. In contrast, Armadillo garments are made from 100% natural fibre, which safely decomposes at the end of the garment’s life.
We’re building an international brand with a reputation for high-performance garments that solve health and wellbeing issues. We see James and James as an important partner in this global marketing strategy.
It all began in 2010, when James Hyde and James Strachan couldn’t find a modern shipping service for the eCommerce business they ran. Faced with messy warehouses based on out-dated systems, they decided to build their own. We’ve not stood still since, helping hundreds of online brands scale up – and scaling with them.