"Synthetic fleece isn't fleece at all," complains Jeremy Moon, the cultural anthropologist turned sustainable designer behind the wool-focused adventure-apparel maker Icebreaker. "It's all plastic." Moon, 40, has spent the past 15 years refining merino wool from New Zealand's Southern Alps into breathable, anti-stink base layers, but this fall marks his first foray into fleece. "We've been working on the technology for three years," he says. "It's taken us that long to perfect it."
Icebreaker's Realfleece ($200 with hood, $175 without) repels outside moisture while absorbing perspiration, making it perfect for a fall hike. During a trip to Yellowstone National Park, it proved indispensable every time the sun hid behind the clouds and in the evenings. The flattering trim fit also makes it a sporty light jacket back in the city.
But the Wellington, New Zealand-based company doesn't only want you to stay warm — it also wants you to feel good. Its unique Baacode program — yes, baa — lets you trace your fleece back to the farmers and sheep who helped make it, just in case you want to send them a thank-you note.
A version of this article appeared in the September 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.