Building a fashion brand from the regional SA

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From her farm just north of Burra, Emily Riggs is building a business based on her passion for the wool industry, her love of horses and her desire to stand out as a leader in slow fashion.

It looks like she’s on the right track, with her clothing brand Iris and Wool – made from 100% Australian wool – which has seen massive sales growth of 385% in the past 12 months.

As the COVID pandemic initially hit Iris and Wool’s in-store sales hard across Australia, Riggs said she is now one of the drivers of the company’s incredible growth.

“In the current climate, people are more and more aware and concerned about consuming less and switching to higher quality parts,” she said.

“People in lockdown have turned to online shopping rather than going to a real store.

“My marketing has gained attention and social media influencers have been seen to endorse Iris and Wool including Mia Freedman, Emma Hawkins, Elle Ferguson and Catriona Rowntree.”

Riggs said she was proud to be able to run her business from rural South Australia, where she lives on a sheep and crop estate with her husband Tom and two young children Sam and Lucy.

“I don’t feel at all at a disadvantage to be regionally based,” Riggs said.

“I love being able to present the trendy farm to our urban community.

“I recently discovered an interesting statistic: in Australia, 83% of Australians say their connection to agriculture is ‘distant’ or ‘nonexistent’, and in a world where we have never been so technologically connected, this surprised me.

“Every day, food and fiber are part of our life and are essential in shaping the world we live in.

“I want to bridge this gap. “

Riggs’ wool brand allowed him to combine his passion for fashion with his lifestyle.

“I am married to a merino sheep producer and have always had a love of fashion so when I was exposed to merino fiber I thought, why not combine the two and create my own brand. , made entirely from Australians? Merino wool? ”Said Riggs.

“I love the fact that wool is a natural fiber, that it is biodegradable and that it breathes so well. I believe it’s the best fiber in the world and it sells itself.

“Wool is incredibly versatile – it’s not just chunky knits, but it also works great in sportswear and can be very fine, which means it’s perfect for fine summer wear. .

“I was also able to incorporate merino wool into equestrian clothing – combining my other passion, horseback riding – with underwear as well as wool / cotton jodhpurs, as well as a new range of wool denim. merino for men and women. “

There’s something else special about iris and wool and it’s all in the name, a sweet hug to Riggs’ late mother, Jane, whose favorite flower was the iris.

It is in her memory that Riggs made the decision to donate five percent of all sales to the McGrath Foundation to support breast care nurses in the community.

“The McGrath Foundation is very close to my heart,” said Riggs.

“My mother died of breast cancer at the age of 43. I was only 11 years old and at the same time, I myself was undergoing chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“We were living in the countryside at the time and had to move closer to the city for our treatment. It was such a difficult time, and I just think if Mom had had access to one of those breast care nurses, things might have been different.

“One thing I’m sure is Mom would have been so proud of what I’m doing now, happy that I was happy and chasing my dream, and just quietly happy I think.”

Now mom herself, Riggs’ business has branched out.

A new range for children was launched this year, along with merino wool accessories, including popular cable-knit gloves and scarves.

“I hope that one day I can use our own wool from the property here in Burra,” said Riggs.

“It’s something really exciting and something to strive for, which makes it a true ‘farm to fad’ story.

“I want Iris and Wool to be a global brand and I would like to be recognized as a leader in the slow fashion movement, showcasing the amazing qualities of Australian merino wool to the world.”

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