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May 18, 2017

Small business survey: Adelaide’s fabric industry

A groundswell of interest in ethical and natural fibres has led to the emergence of a new kind of fabric industry in Adelaide, led by entrepreneurs with a personal passion for their product.

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  • Words: Johnny von Einem
  • Pictures: Jonathan van der Knaap

Woven together at The Drapery
Established: 2013 — Staff: 2

The Drapery can be found at 308A Glen Osmond Rd, Fullarton SA 5063

Turning a personal hobby into a business is daunting.

But it’s an alluring thought to be able to turn enough profit from your passion to quit your regular 9-to-5 and refocus your attention on what you love.

This is the lived experience of Jane Goldney and Fiona Dalton, who up until 2013 worked as an advertising copywriter and a graphic designer respectively.

“We had both just reached a point where we wanted a change,” Fiona says.

“We felt like we’d done that, and I guess it’s just really we were excited about it, you know?” Jane says.

“I hadn’t really been excited about doing other work for a while, and that just seemed like the right time.”

With their shared passion for sewing and addiction to fabrics, they opened The Drapery on Glen Osmond Road, and nearly four years in, what they’ve created is a hobbyist’s wonderland of high quality fabrics, patterns and sewing-related accessories.

An old sewing machine is part of the furniture at The Drapery

“Our specialty is natural fibres, and we have each shopped around at other places, and just found that there was a lot of man-made fibres creeping into it,” Fiona says.

“It just wasn’t something that we [wanted], environmentally and ethically. It was a driving force and a point of difference for us.”

Sourcing Lithuanian linen and modern Japanese fabrics wasn’t the most difficult challenge – that’s part of the fun.

It was transitioning from the creative industries into retail that took some getting used to.

“Neither of us had run a retail business before, so we had to work out how to use a cash register,” Jane laughs.

“[But] we felt like there was this opportunity there, and if we didn’t do it, maybe someone else would, and then we’d just totally kick ourselves.”

The pair were hoping to capture and foster a sense of community among Adelaide’s sewers by facilitating the kind of connections that can only occur in a smaller physical shop.

“We share a passion with most of our customers, so yeah, it makes it a really pleasant place,” Fiona says.

“Yeah, you’ll have a customer in here who’s talking about something and asking about something, and another customer will be over on another side of the room and pipe up and go ‘Try doing it like this,’ and it’s really nice,” Jane adds.

It’s true – after five minutes in store with Jane and Fiona, CityMag was ready to hunt down an old Singer sewing machine and get started.

Weft Textiles
Established: 2016 — Staff: 1

Samia Fisher

“My brand and the story doesn’t really happen when I’m selling the product… the main part of the brand is what happens when I go and dye,” Samia Fisher says.

Finding the ethos behind Samia’s brand Weft doesn’t take a whole lot of investigating.

It’s written in the clean and sparse space Samia has carved out of Shop 4, Parc Arcade, and it’s also exhibited on the walls through the photographs she took during a reconnaissance trip to Indonesia.

Weft is all about simplicity – in the design of its soft furnishings and clothing and in its natural fabrics and dyes. It’s a great experience from the moment you enter the store right through to when you’re at home resting against your organic cotton cushion in your naturally dyed linen kimono-style bathrobe.

Established: 2016 — Staff: 2

Katherine Schultz and Arky Abbott

Cotton is not that great for a baby’s skin.

It’s an insight that only the most entrepreneurial family and newborn photographer could make, and one that Katherine Schultz, with the insistence of her partner, Arky Abbott, turned into a business.

Katherine’s 100 per cent bamboo swaddles – hand-dyed by Arky himself – are as kind to skin as they are to the environment, and are made to suit parents who prefer a neutral aesthetic. Not every child need be wrapped in an animal-monogrammed cotton sheet.

As if the whole operation wasn’t adorable enough, one dollar from every purchase is donated to the Miracle Babies Foundation.

And for those of us without a tiny human to bundle, we’re told the swaddles make great scarves and travel blankets.

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