Wanaka based Amanda Dorset and her husband, Ben Wilson, are the designers behind Wilson & Dorset, the luxury New Zealand sheepskin brand set to transform our living spaces.
Think of a sheepskin rug and many of us are taken back to the 1970s when one could be found in most Kiwi homes. “I’m a child of the ‘70s and my mum’s still got my mine,” says Amanda Dorset, who is now in the business of the modern-day sheepskin.
Kitsch No More
Twelve years ago, when Wilson & Dorset was founded, sheepskin was seen as a little bit kitsch but Amanda and Ben set out to give it a makeover. “We saw an opportunity for a more edgy type of design,” says Amanda. “Sheepskin is an amazing natural fibre to use in your home. It’s beautiful, it’s functional, it’s antimicrobial, it’s warm in winter, it breathes in summer, and it doesn’t hold odour or stain. All you need to do is vacuum it and perhaps steam clean it once a year. I have not had one stain that I haven’t been able to get out.”
“Our sheepskin products are luxurious and designed to be lived on every day. Our children have grown up on ours from babies and beyond. They withstand a lot of living!” An animal’s coat must withstand some extreme weather conditions and its versatility and hardiness are a nod to Mother Nature.
We’re living an age where there’s a renewed respect for natural fibres together with a demand for sustainability, and sheepskin ticks both boxes. “In the 1990s the synthetics industry created fibre out of petrochemicals ,which are a non-renewable resource, and proclaimed them the greatest,” says Amanda. “People brought into that so we need to reeducate them about the wonders of wool as a fibre.”
Wilson & Dorset
Wilson & Dorset designs include shaggy bags (think bean bags), stones (multi-functional floor cushions), chair pads and rugs in a variety of colours. “Often sheepskin has been so over-processed it looks synthetic. We try to do the least amount possible by preserving the inherent qualities of the wool fibre. Our skins are beautifully curly and wild,” says Amanda.
Suede Backed Rugs
“We patchwork our rugs to create circular and rectangular shapes as well as an organic shape we call ‘The Moa’, then we back them with suede. Often rugs need to have something to fix them but the suede creates a weight so they sit beautifully and securely. The non-backed skins are great for draping over a couch or an armchair. Right now, with winter in Wanaka, I pull ours off the couch and drape them over our outdoor furniture or use them in the car.”
The Magic Of Natural Fibres
Amanda says people are drawn to the woollen fibre. “It’s really interesting. We have a concept store here in Wanaka — it’s practically wall-to-wall sheepskin and when people come in I see them visibly relax. It’s the magic of the woollen fibre. It’s hard to get people to leave at closing time!”
Amanda wants to encourage people to look at their living spaces differently. “People have the classic set up of a three-seater couch, a couple of armchairs and maybe a rug with a coffee table on top. It’s quite static,” she says. “I suggest ditching the armchairs and coffee table to open up and fully utilise your space. It’s a lounging concept. The Rug and Shaggy Bag and Stone Set offer fluid lounging pieces that move freely from one living space to the next instead of being locked in a traditional lounge set up.”
Changing The World
People around the globe are cottoning on to the humble sheepskin’s versatility and functionality in the design space. “We’ve just sent four shaggy bags to Paris, two to San Francisco and one of our suede backed rugs has taken up residence in Copenhagen,” says Amanda. “And this is all from those in the know because we don’t even have an e-commerce website. We are working on it though and it should be up by spring. In the meantime, follow us on Instagram @wilsondorset or contact our Wanaka Concept Store.