Icebreaker , the New Zealand clothing company that pioneeredmerino wool for the outdoors, has opened its first Midwest store at 44 E. Walton Street in Chicago's Gold Coast, just in time for the holidays. From commuter cyclists and dog walkers to sports enthusiasts and nature lovers, Icebreaker plans to keep Chicagoans warm in winter and cool in summer. "We're really excited to be opening in Chicago and introducing Icebreaker to active, style-savvy Chicagoans," says Jeremy Moon, Founder and CEO of Icebreaker. "Icebreaker was founded to give active people a natural alternative to synthetics. We source merino wool from The Southern Alps of New Zealand to create beautiful and stylish apparel that feels like cashmere yet is machine washable." "It's about time people have the choice to wear a sustainable, natural fiber rather than the petrochemical synthetics which dominate outdoor and sports apparel." Apparently, Icebreaker arrived just in time as Chicago temperatures dropped to single digits last week and Chicagoans experienced freezing weather up to Thanksgiving. The Chicago store features Icebreaker's complete line of innovative merino wool apparel, including Outdoor, Run/Fitness, Underwear, Travel/Lifestyle collections and Socks and Accessories. A percentage of opening week sales will benefit Active Transportation Alliance in Chicago, a not-for-profit organization helping to build a movement around alternative transportation and Chicago events, encouraging physical activity. Merino Layers Icebreaker has adapted merino wool into a system of lightweight layers that can be worn next-to-skin in warmer weather, then layered up for insulation in the cold. Moon explains, "Merino regulates temperature. It warms in the cold and cools in the heat – a great selling point for the Midwest, given its hot summers and freezing winters." Merino is also known for its antimicrobial benefits which means that it's odor resistant and can be worn for days – sometimes weeks – without washing. Nature's Design The Chicago store will debut a number of new interior design features that tell the Icebreaker story and engage shoppers. Upon entering the store, customers are met by a "mountain" display that demonstrates Icebreaker layers and key styles. New Zealand sheep stations, home to the sheep that provide the all-natural merino wool used by Icebreaker, served as inspiration for the materials and textures throughout the store. This includes the natural woods specified for the walls, fitting rooms and floor fixtures to the natural steel incorporated into the design of the tables. The store wall surrounds the interior with inspirational images from the Southern Alps of New Zealand, the source of Icebreaker's merino wool. "We believe Chicagoans will love our brand new store format which communicates our premium outdoor experience and connects people more to nature," says Moon. Two other new features include a library and a Community Board where customers and Icebreaker associates can share their stories of their adventures in the outdoors and around the world. The library includes books that are inspiring to employees of Icebreaker and Moon has submitted dozens of his own. Sustainability/Company History Sustainability is at the heart of Icebreaker, and the company aims for profitable sustainability - a business model that balances ecology with economy. Supply chain transparency is also important. Hence why, in 2008, the company launched Baacode, a fun traceability programme, which allows consumers to trace the origin of the wool their garment is made from back to the sheep station where it was grown. Headquartered in New Zealand, Icebreaker was founded by Moon in 1994 and began specializing in merino baselayer long underwear. The Icebreaker 2013 Fall/Winter apparel line now features over 700 items, from underwear to baselayer, first layer, mid layer, outer layer and essential accessories such as hats, gloves, scarves and socks. North American Store Locations Icebreaker has ten other North American stores: Portland, Oregon (home of its US headquarters); New York City (SoHo and the Meatpacking District), California (San Francisco and San Jose), Montréal, Quebec and Vancouver, British Columbia (Kitsilano and North Shore). It has also just opened in the Washington DC area, in Bethesda, Maryland. The company also has two partner stores in the US with Vail Resorts, one recently opened in Northstar at Tahoe, and one in Solaris at Vail. Icebreaker Chicago Store Hours: Open Monday through Thursday from 10am to 7pm, Friday and Saturday 10am to 8pm and Sunday 11am to 6pm. 44 East Walton Street, Chicago, IL 60611 (Tel. 312 397-1440). About Icebreaker Icebreaker merino clothing for the outdoors, technical sports and lifestyle includes underwear, mid layer garments, outerwear, socks and accessories for men, women and children. Icebreaker is based in Wellington, New Zealand, and is sold in more than 3000 stores in 44 countries. See icebreaker.com for more information about Icebreaker, and jeremymoon.me for more information on Icebreaker founder and CEO Jeremy Moon.