Compass: Charting the Evolution of Outdoor Gear

Fairydown History

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Arthur Ellis & Co founded by Arthur Ellis, built on the back of his father, Ephraim Ellis’s flocking mill business in Dunedin, New Zealand


Roland Ellis, a mountaineer (and bedding manufacturer), makes the Southern Hemisphere’s first down sleeping bags


Murray Ellis joins the business


New Zealand mountaineer Edmund Hillary makes first ascent of Mt Everest wearing a Fairydown down jacket.

Fairydown sleeping bags also used at 28,000 ft by Hillary and fellow summiter, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay


supplied purpose designed polar clothing and sleeping bags to the successful New Zealand 57/58 South Pole Expedition


Arthur Ellis Holdings Ltd is manufacturer of sleeping bags, mattresses, upholstery, beddings, pillows, and jackets

Murray Ellis resigns as Executive Director of Arthur Ellis

David Ellis, son of Murray, joins Arthur Ellis & Co.


Arthur Ellis & Co acquired by international trading conglomerate, Northern Feather


David Ellis resigns from the business, citing conflicts with his strongly held family values and business ethics


develop a line of packs, including the Traverse, Terra Nova and Chameleon

[Earth Sea Sky established by David Ellis and Sydney Mulligan]


Arthur Ellis company is bought by Donaghys from Northern Feather

develop a tent range, including the Solo, Plateau Tent, Assault


develop a sleeping bag range, including the Scorpion, Liteweight, and Cobra.


develop the patented Rapid Pitch System (RPS) for tents (continuous pole sleeves and rubber 'pole stop' end pockets.)


develop the Fairydown Rain Machine to test tent waterproofness. 8,000 litres of water per hour continously recycled


New Zealand based manufacturing is mostly closed down. Production moved to Asia due to the higher value of New Zealand dollar


company loses $1 million on its manufacturing operation


70% of turnover is derived from New Zealand sales, 30% from exports

turnover equals NZ$50 million

former Bendon managing director, Hugo Venter, buys 40% stake in Arthur Ellis,

remaining 60% owned by AMP Henderson Global Investors' PrivateCapital Fund.

the combined Arthur Ellis/Donaghys group is restructured into separate groups of companies,

95 jobs lost in Christchurch and Dunedin (30% of finished product had been New Zealand labour)


Fairydown is rebranded ‘Zone’, because Australian men apparently perceived homosexual connotations in the word 'fairy'

buys Survival Apparel, (merino and thermal underwear), including Everwarm brand, owned by Mary Devine and Terry Iggo, out of Auckland,

Mary Devine take executive position with Arthur Ellis

acquires Australasian distribution rights for the Timberland brand, including Timberland retail stores


Murray Ellis dies

Arthur Ellis donates tents and sleepware to the Tsumani appeal

Mary Devine (ex Survival Apparel) is chief executive officer

Pacific Brands announces intent to acquire from Arthur Ellis Limited its Bedware businesses

Everwarm (polypropylene thermals) and Survival (merino apparel) businesses, also owned by Arthur Ellis are also sold to Pacific Brands

sale is reported as going for NZ$13.2 million.


AMP Henderson Private Capital buy the Fairydown parent company Arthur Ellis


Jan Cameron (of Alp Sports and Kathmandu) buys the Fairydown brand, (and related Great Outdoors brand)


Mouton Noir (Bernard Wicht, Pierre van Noorden, and Campbell Junor), buy Fairydown brand from Jan Cameron

Jan Cameron was apparently unable to advance the brand due to a restraint of trade agreement following her sale of the Kathmandu brand

new owners open Fairydown branded retail store in Christchurch, with others planned for Wellington, Dunedin and Auckland


Fairydown branded gear sold exclusively through Mouton Noir's retail stores now under their newly acquired Macpac brand

Fairydown Bedware today

Fairydown Outdoor today (via Macpac)

Earth Sea Sky today