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Armadillo Merino scoops tops awards in nationwide competition for startups

Merino's built-in advantages, combined with a natural softness and strength, make it the ideal fibre for enhanced protection
The judges said Armadillo Merino is the only range of all natural body armour for fire fighters and police

A Derbyshire company has scooped a top award in a nationwide competition for startups, with its world-beating wool garments for risk takers and action people. Derby-based Armadillo Merino, already high flying after major export contracts, has won the product-based startup of the year award, in competition with hundreds of other businesses.

Among the judges for the Natwest-sponsored award, was Dragons Den personality Douglas Bannatyne, who headed a panel that told the company they were an impressive example of British design and innovation leading the world.

The judges said Armadillo Merino is the only range of all natural body armour for fire fighters, police and military personnel, and will save lives.  “This product has the potential to become just the sort of quality, specialist, world-leading medium sized business the UK needs,” the panel added in their comments.

Managing director Andy Caughey developed the garments after soldiers caught in roadside bomb blasts found their man-made fibre based underclothes had melted and fused with skin, causing severe burns that are difficult to treat and resulting in life-long scarring. Merino wool has natural flame-resistant properties that help protect wearers and will help save lives.

“It is all about saving your skin,” he said. “Soldiers in the first and second world wars knew the value of wearing wool close to their skin, for comfort and warmth. Wool has evolved over thousands of years to protect sheep in extremes of heat, humidity and cold. By combining modern technology with superfine merino wool, we have created a range of head to toe high performance garments that can help protect wearers and are so fine that they have a silky feel.

“We have been able to enhance the comfort and durability for risk-takers by removing internal labels, using smooth flatlock stitching and placing single panels under the arms at traditional friction points. User comfort is critical for operational effectiveness, which is why we educate users so they understand and appreciate the natural qualities of merino wool for comfort, warmth and protection.”

He said the garments have unique performance properties and tests have demonstrated that wearers experience higher levels of endurance. Merino's built-in advantages, combined with a natural softness and strength, make it the ideal fibre for enhanced protection, performance and comfort in extreme environments."

He added: “For soldiers on active duty and emergency risk takers, these garment are vital.  Some man-made fibres have a low melting point and having these next to your skin in a fire situation can be fatal or cause skin damage that means months of painful cleaning and grafts, as the victims of roadside bombs and tank crews have discovered."

Armadillo Merino - with a significant Italian order already under its belt - says it is actively talking with military and emergency services around the world and it expects more orders to follow, with support from the British Government’s UK Trade & Investment organisation and its offshore offices.

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