Styles for ladies on the land

NewsMail - Wide Bay Rural Weekly - - Front Page - AN­DREA DAVY An­drea.davy@ru­ral­ .

SHE grew up on a cat­tle sta­tion, is com­fort­able driv­ing heavy ma­chin­ery and loves work­ing with stock, but Cheri Stanger has al­ways main­tained her clas­sic sense of style.

In the midst of rais­ing her chil­dren, Hud­son and Fred, as well as co-man­ag­ing Cowan Downs in western Queens­land with her hus­band Ben, the mother of two launched her own fash­ion line – House of Cheri.

The busi­ness sells gar­ments that are per­fect for ladies on the land.

The shirts are the right de­sign and ma­te­rial for rid­ing horses but are made in fem­i­nine colours and prints, with cute but­tons and classy cuts to make them the right bal­ance of durable and pretty.

Look­ing at the House of Cheri’s web­site, you can tell the busi­ness is run from the heart.

A few of her shirts, in­clud­ing Lindy Teal and Julie Flo­ral, have been named af­ter her fam­ily mem­bers, and in her web page’s blog she fin­ishes every post with an X – the sym­bol of a kiss to say good­bye.

Although she is not afraid to get her hands dirty, and is cur­rently spend­ing hours of her day work­ing wean­ers through the yards, Cheri said own­ing fash­ion­able clothes had al­ways been im­por­tant to her.

“I have al­ways been on the healthy side of ob­sessed or ex­tremely pas­sion­ate about fash­ion,” she said.

“My mother, Heather, gra­ciously taught me how to sew at a young age and the first thing I made was a doll’s shirt.”

Cheri still re­mem­bers that first hand-made top well.

“It was made of a beau­ti­ful soft fab­ric, cream back­ground cov­ered with gor­geous deep pur­ple roses,” she said.

The shirt was ac­tu­ally in­tended to fit her but ended up be­ing far too small, so her doll be­came the best-dressed toy in the house­hold.

Cheri was mo­ti­vated to start her busi­ness when she found her­self strug­gling to buy the style of cloth­ing she was look­ing for.

She is a keen cam­p­drafter and said it was tough to find a nice shirt that was also suit­able for horse work.

“I couldn’t find the ideal shirt for rid­ing in,” she said. “I am not say­ing there aren’t beau­ti­ful shirts out there, as there are many, but I just couldn’t find the ideal one for me.

“I wanted a time­less clas­sic piece to wear any­where, long cuffs with beau­ti­ful but­tons, a stiffer col­lar as I fre­quently stand my col­lars up in the sun, and I like stay­ing well dressed and not have my shirt come un­tucked dur­ing rid­ing.

“Per­haps most im­por­tantly, the fab­ric. I love breath­able, soft, lux­u­ri­ous fab­ric that’s com­fort­able to wear. It’s so im­por­tant.”

When or­der­ing the clothes for her­self, Ben sug­gested she or­der in some more to see if any other women would want to buy them.

She bought an ex­tra 100 shirts and they all sold out within three weeks.

Cheri ad­mits she was shocked to see the quick sales but said the high de­mand mo­ti­vated her to do more and soon enough House of Cheri was launched.

Fast for­ward to to­day and the up­stairs lounge room of their Cowan Downs home­stead has been con­verted into a make-shift of­fice.

On the ta­ble where she does arts and crafts with her kids, she care­fully wraps clothes to be sent off to cus­tomers.

She has all the things you would ex­pect from a fash­ion busi­ness: boxes of fab­ric, bas­kets of rib­bon and a model man­nequin for photo shoots.

While she has made her­self the per­fect cre­ative space, Cheri ad­mits start­ing an on­line-fo­cused fash­ion busi­ness from out­back Queens­land has not come with­out chal­lenges.

“Hav­ing a small in­ter­net al­lowance and not be­ing able to visit the fab­ric ware­houses to run my fin­gers across the dif­fer­ent types of ma­te­ri­als is chal­leng­ing,” she said.

Sup­pli­ers are will­ing to send out sam­ples, but some­times the ma­te­rial comes in a 2cm-square fab­ric piece.

On top of that she has a hefty bill for postage and couri­ers due to her re­mote lo­ca­tion.

“There are all the neg­a­tives, of course, none of which I give too much fo­cus –

if I did I would have quit al­ready,” she said.

Cheri has a well of pa­tience when it comes to cre­at­ing some­thing beau­ti­ful.

Re­cently she spent hours driv­ing the sta­tion loader to cart river loam to the home­stead to im­prove the house’s gar­den area.

It took months and she carted tonnes of soil, but she felt it was all worth­while to make the place feel more “homely”.

“It’s amazing what you can achieve with a bit of ef­fort,” she said.

Her at­ten­tion to de­tail is what shapes her de­signs.

“I think ev­ery­one should wear cloth­ing that has been metic­u­lously crafted with beau­ti­ful de­tails,” she said.

“I guess my dream would be to have lots of peo­ple wear­ing my cloth­ing be­cause they ab­so­lutely love them.”

The cam­p­draft mar­ket has em­braced the range, and Cheri is spon­sor­ing sev­eral top com­peti­tors – Jaye Hall, Jess Hoff­mann and Carolyn Muir McNabb – to pro­mote her brand.

By the end of the year the House of Cheri will also have men’s and chil­dren’s lines. She is a de­ter­mined busi­ness­woman but said she could not have achieved so much with­out the sup­port of her fam­ily, in par­tic­u­lar, her hus­band.

“Ben has given me con­fi­dence in bucket loads,” she said.

“If you don’t have any­one be­side you sup­port­ing you then I would sug­gest you find some­one who can, be it a friend or rel­a­tive. It helps to have some­one pos­i­tive, and to be sur­rounded by pos­i­tive peo­ple is very re­as­sur­ing, mo­ti­vat­ing and re­lax­ing.

“My ad­vice to other ru­ral moth­ers who are want­ing to start a busi­ness is to just do it. If you keep putting it off for a time when you will have more time then you’ll never do it.

“If it flops you will be back where you started, noth­ing dif­fer­ent … but what if it suc­ceeds?”

Visit­ .au or search “House of Cheri” on Face­book.


Cheri loves com­pet­ing in cam­p­drafts.

Man­ag­ing Cowan Downs is a fam­ily ef­fort. Father Ben gets a hand from his sons Hud­son and Fred.

House of Cheri founder Cheri Stanger.

Cheri Stanger loves life on the land, liv­ing in western Queens­land on Cowan Downs.

Ben talk­ing to his son Fred on Cowan Downs.

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