Introducing Tracy Wright, talented designer and owner of retail women’s clothing store, Raw Fibre, which launched in 2016 as a part-time retail shopfront, and have been operating as a full-time business since February 2017. Tracy recently won the Racewear and Modern Child Sections at the Australian Cotton Fibre Expo.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up near Narrabri, and met my then future husband in Wee Waa. We married in 1999 and relocated to Armidale in 2000. We are the proud parents of two teenagers. We live on a property on the Guyra-Ebor Road, which is a beautiful place to raise a family.
What is your background?
I originally trained as a science teacher. While I was at university, I sewed for people to fund my social life. I have worked as a PA in the cotton industry and taught textiles in Armidale for eight years, starting at Fabric Fair when I first moved to town.
Tell us about Raw Fibre.
We are a local retail women’s clothing store presenting readymade and custom clothing using high quality, natural fabrics. I design all our clothing, which is increasingly locally produced. My goal is to only use local seamstresses where possible in the production of my clothing ranges.
What is the Raw Fibre Concept?
Natural fibres are my passion. I love wearing them, and working with them. The fabrics I work with are good quality fabrics that are made to last. Fashion today is so disposable, and I believe more people are looking for clothing made from quality natural fabrics.
What inspired you to start Raw Fibre?
I had dabbled around the edges of the idea for some time. I started a maternity wear business while pregnant – Glow Maternity Wear. I was then in partnership in a dressmaking and alterations shop called Altered Stitches. I love creating things for people and seeing the satisfaction of people loving what they’ve bought when they walk out the door.
How is business?
Business is slowly but surely growing. Our word of mouth is amazing. Steady growth suits me, so I can focus on the quality of work and making sure customers get their things on time. When I started out, people told me it could take three years to build a successful business, and I feel I am running to schedule.
I have only been full-time since February 2017, as until last year I was still teaching.
We recently grew out of our old tiny shopfront and relocated. It was a big step for us, and, of course, more expensive. However, I needed more room for customers to see things properly presented and for my workspace. People frequently comment that they like to see me working and the creative process in action.
Where to from here?
I recently went to AgQuip and made some amazing contacts and now have two stores wanting to stock my clothing. While there, the Australian Cotton Fibre Expo invited me to enter some of my garments into their competition. I have started to focus on getting more of that kind of exposure.
My goal is for Raw Fibre to continue as a full-time business with my own shopfront and providing beautiful clothing to a few boutiques so I can maintain the quality and bespoke nature of the business.
I’ve recently changed my business model slightly. I still design for the seasons; however, I am very flexible with my custom orders, so that clients who are looking for something out of season can adjust a garment, in a fabric that they love.
What is your favourite part of running your own business?
I just love creating. I’ve always loved sewing, so my hobby is now my life. I can go to work and sew all day, and I get to meet some incredible people. My clients are very discerning in what they are looking for, and the respect and support for people who start a small business in country towns has been incredible.
No, not one.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by nature. Where we live is amazing. My family also inspires me: teenagers keep you in touch with what is going on in the world. I love looking at what other designers are doing, seeing how they are growing their businesses. It reaffirms that you can do it.
What would you advise a business just starting out?
Do a LOT of planning; don’t rush into it. Take the time to do the financial planning and go through all the different models available to you. Use the experience of people who have been there before. Find a mentor you can talk to.
What are the biggest challenges that lie ahead?
There are a few: being able to keep up if things grow too much; needing to employ staff; continuing to manufacture in Armidale; working towards Raw Fibre becoming a truly profitable business.
What do you have planned for Christmas?
I’ve just received some pretty amazing silk in store: a few little dresses and tops in very pretty silk. I will also have some lovely Christmas bits and pieces. Pop in and say hello!
Thank you, Tracy.