From the back paddocks of Burra to top-end boutiques

For city-girl-turned-country-fashion-designer Emily Riggs, life on the land near Burra in regional South Australia has unlocked opportunities in fashion she’d never have dreamt possible in the big smoke.

Emily’s story is the subject of Episode 2 of You Moved Where?! a podcast featuring the stories of Australians who’ve made the big move from the city to the bush, and who are now loving life in regional Australia.

You Moved Where?! host Bec Bignell is a film and TV producer and herself, a recently returned regional Australian, is now living back in the regions after years spent in Sydney and abroad.

Bec chats to Emily about how ironically, being miles from city life saw her infiltrate the heart of Australia’s fashion scene, with her very own label IRIS AND WOOL.

“What I love about Emily’s story, is it plants the seed, that not only do you not need to be in the city to achieve your creative dreams, but actually it can be the inbuilt features of the bush, that bring those dreams to fruition,” Bec said.

“In Emily’s case this was joining her husband’s sheep business and creating beautiful pieces from Merino wool, including from fleeces off her family’s very own sheep.”

From the back paddocks of Burra to top-end boutiques - Image 1

Emily and her children Sam and Lucy. Photo credit Ekaterina Shipova.

Emily was drawn to the world of fashion from early on. At 10 years of age, she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and some months later lost her mother to breast cancer.  Through the dark, debilitating experience Emily turned to the colour and culture of fashion to empower herself through the creative expression and freedom it gave her.

As a young adult, Emily worked as a marketing professional and felt totally at home in the fashion-forward, fast -paced environment of Melbourne.

In 2023, and now a mother of two, Emily draws on her regional lifestyle and the landscape to inspire IRIS AND WOOL collections however, garment designs are not the only thing she’s focused on – sharing the story of the product is also a major objective.

“I feel that the future of fashion is all traceability, and sustainable, natural fibres. It’s the way of the future…Gen Z – that’s what they want. Contemporary consumers are invested in understanding the story behind the clothing they wear.”

When asked about the key to being in the fashion business in the bush, Emily says it’s technology. She leverages tech and remote digital systems for immediate access to all the different people based in Australia and overseas who are involved in the process – from design to distribution.

Technology also enables IRIS & WOOL to connect with extensive networks and high-profile supporters who’ve been instrumental in helping accelerate the growth of the brand.

While Emily couldn’t be physically further from the haute couture catwalks in city centres, she brings elegance and style to outback Burra and her ambition in the fashion stakes is just as easily attained right from where she lives.

Emily’s advice to regionally-curious Australians:

“Just do it. Come and experience it – it’s just the best. I feel like you wouldn’t look back – you’d think, ‘why was I living in the city when I have all this beautiful space and a beautiful community. Just do it.”

Listen to Emily’s story on Episode 2 and subscribe to You Moved Where?! at Apple Podcasts and Spotify

Emily Riggs is one of eight ‘movers’ host Bec chats to in Series 1 of You Moved Where?! Other guests include Olympian and media personality Giaan Rooney, who swapped Brisbane for a macadamia farm in the Northern Rivers region of NSW; Ellie Bigwood who switched Sydney for the expanse of a top end cattle station and Jacinta Reddan who, following an international corporate career, has landed the job of her dreams in sunny Cairns!

You Moved Where?! is a part of initiative, which is powered by the Regional Australia Institute and supported by the Australian Government. Move To Move partners include Domain, Muval, nbn Co and SEEK.

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