New Zealand wool sells well around the world, although it tends to be more prized by carpet manufacturers than the fashion trade. Now, however, New Zealand is additionally staking a claim to be a supplier of a luxury quality, natural fibre created from the hair of one of its native mammals - the opossum.

The Maori language uses the word "koha" to describe opossum hair - but it is the Japanese Hayazen Textile Company that is rediscovering koha in the field of present day fashion.

Hayazen is producing fabrics blending koha with wool and polyamide which it aims to sell into the European and Japanese markets.

The initial collection ranges from woven coating weight fabrics containing up to 45 per cent koha, to 18 per cent, lightweight jersey cloths targeted at the ladies' separates trade.

By Sonia Roberts.