Cultivating the Creative Fabric of Regional Australia: Meet the Design Team behind Goondiwindi Cotton

Goondiwindi Cotton is an Australian owned and operated family farming business. We opened our doors 30 years ago employing local women to design and sew our natural garments, some of whom still work with us today. In this blog, we meet the team 'Behind the Seams' and discover their passion for the brand and the women they design for ...


Marianne & Lou, when did you decide to pursue a career in fashion and how did you start?

Marianne:
When I left school, I was actually studying to become a primary school teacher. After two years, I took a year off to decide what I really wanted to do. You might say that I accidentally fell into a career in fashion after working in retail, and progressing through the ranks in different parts of the fashion industry. Whilst I certainly didn't take the normal path for a career in design, I think having experience across the many different facets of the industry has definitely helped me develop a very commercial eye when designing product. 

Louise: Growing up on a dairy farm South East of Sydney, I watched my grandmother sew as a young girl. Watching her, I fell in love with design and working with fabrics which led to me to enrol at East Sydney Technical College.

How long have you been working in the Fashion Industry?
Marianne: I have been working in the industry for over 30 years.

Louise:
It's been 35 years.
 
Where was your first job, and what led you to where you are now in your career?
Marianne: After working in retail, I moved into a career of wholesale sales initially working for Corfu Jeans selling to retailers in NSW. I also worked for brands such as Time Sportswear and Hot Clothing. My lucky break came when I was approached by Farah, a leading Menswear brand, to launch their women's wear label - Savane, into the Australian Market.  I finally established myself in a product development role and have never looked back.
 
I left Farah to launch my own label, re-launch which I had for 9 years and started from scratch. Sadly re-launch feel victim to the GFC. Looking back it was still one of my greatest achievements stocked nationally by David Jones and boutiques right across Australia and New Zealand.

Louise: My first job was a pattern maker for Jill Fitzsimon. Jill was a formidable fashion designer with her own label in the 80's. Jill sat alongside designers such as Carla Zampatti, Prue Acton & Trent Nathan in that era. I then applied for a rural placement with NSW TAFE and was posted to Boggabilla on the NSW/ QLD border. I've never looked back and have lived in Goondiwindi ever since.
 
How did you start working at Goondiwindi Cotton and when did you start working with them?
Marianne: I was introduced to Goondiwindi Cotton by Dennis Rose, their NSW agent 9 years ago. Initially Sam brought me on board as a consultant to work with Louise and expand their range of product. Two years later I was offered a full time role. I am actually based in Sydney, so I work remotely and visit Head Office every few months. We are all good communicators so it's actually really easy.

Louise: I met Sam at a local Chamber of Commerce meeting in Goondiwindi. He was passionate about creating manufacturing and employment opportunities in the town so I suggested we train seamstresses at Boggabilla TAFE to assist with production. For many women this provided a wonderful opportunity to develop their skills and showcase their love of sewing. It was also the first time these women were remunerated for their work.
 
What is your favourite Designer Brand?
Marianne: Hard to pick just one but I do love Valentino.  I also like a lot of the European labels, such as High and for me Bruno Cucinelli, is the epitome of understated elegance. I also like Eileen Fisher from the US for their use of natural fibres and simple uncomplicated styling.

Louise: Valentino, bar none!

What other Australian brands do you most admire?
Marianne: When I think about mainstream vertical retailers, I admire Sportscraft, Cue and Sussan. They all do an amazing job at designing and staying true to their customer. They produce quality product at affordable prices and have the ability to adjust to what their market wants. In terms of Australian designers, I think Carla Zampatti has done an amazing job and at the younger end of the market, Zimmerman use the most beautiful and inspiring prints. I also like brands like Jac and Jack, because they do such great casual styling.

Louise: I've always admired Collette Dinnigan for her fabric selection, fit and styling.
 
Where do you find your inspiration?
Marianne: I'm always looking at what is happening in the market. We have an amazing print supplier. We buy the artwork which means that all of our prints are exclusive and I love viewing the new season collections and selecting prints we are going to use each season. It's what forms the basis for each range and the new season colour pallets. 
 
Louise: I'm inspired by the way women live today. Gone are the days where women have time to plan what that they wear each day. I think living in Australia today is all about effortless looks that take you anywhere throughout the day. 
Who is your favourite style icon?
Marianne:
Iris Affel. For me she has her own unique style and isn't afraid to be an individual.... I just love her. Also Carmen Dell' Orefice... I think she is beautiful and incredibly stylish.

Louise: Audrey Hepburn for her elegant and timeless look.
 
What is the most important thing to you in your role as a designer?
Marianne: My main focus is to make the next season better than the previous. I like to find out what worked, what people loved and build on it. I love seeing how a brand can evolve and to try new things. Last year we launched cloth + paper + scissors - a slightly younger handwriting for the brand which has allowed us to experiment with younger styling and a slightly more urban customer. It's really cool to see this grow and expand.
 
Louise: Loving what I do on a daily basis. I'm inspired each season with the changes in fashion. We're lucky, we work in a very dynamic industry and cotton has come so far over the years. I particularly love the work we're doing with blended fabrics and I'm very proud of our Merino Cotton and Cotton Cashmere combinations.
 
What is the best thing about working at Goondiwindi Cotton?
Marianne: Louise and I work incredibly well together and it just seems to fall into place. Everyone that works at Goondiwindi Cotton is amazing and we all get on really well. We are an incredible team. Watching the brand grow and obtain more market share and brand recognition is something that has been incredibly rewarding.

Louise: It doesn't feel like work. I love what I do and I'm passionate about Goondiwindi as a region. I've been with Goondiwindi Cotton for 28 years and every day I come to work with my family. It's been an amazing company to be apart of and I'm very grateful for the opportunities it's afforded me.


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