Merino Magic

Merino Magic

We love celebrating our fellow farmers — especially when they’re proudly
showcasing Aussie farming to the world.

Emily Riggs, the talent behind Australian fashion label Iris & Wool, has skilfully put the global spotlight on Australian merino wool in an incredibly stylish way. Growing up in regional South Australia’s, picturesque Burra is now home to Emily, her husband Tom and their two young children where they oversee a bustling operation of 15,000 merino sheep spread across four properties. In 2019, Emily’s passion for fashion and merino wool culminated in the launch of Iris & Wool, presenting a timeless

array of 100% certified Australian merino wool knitwear, merino denim, and accessories on sale in 30 national stockists and online. Her dedication to promoting Australian merino wool globally recently earned her the prestigious ‘Woolmark’ recognition and placement in David Jones stores in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. But Iris & Wool isn’t just about fashion success — it’s a testament to philanthropy, sustainability and love — and Emily’s passion is palpable. We caught up with Emily to hear more about her incredible journey.


What inspired you to start Iris &Wool?

The first Iris bulbs were planted way back when I was just nine-year-old. I was in a hospital bed, surrounded by my family when the doctor walked in and delivered some lifechanging news — I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Not many nine-year-olds would know that means cancer, but I did because Mum was in the battle of her life with breast cancer. One of the first things I said was, “I don’t want to lose my hair and go bald and be sick”. A year into my treatment, mum passed away … she was only 43 … it was the hardest time in my life. I lost Mum, I was just a kid, I was so sick, I could barely get out of bed … and I did lose my hair. On occasions, I was mistaken for a boy, which knocked my confidence. It was then that I turned to fashion — it became a way for me to express my creativity and a way for people to look beyond my illness. Looking back, I think fashion became my protection and saviour … it’s more than just the clothes you wear, it represents hope. Then, fast forward about 15 years, I fell in love with a fifth-generation farmer and moved to the country town of Burra, where I also fell in love with Australian merino wool. Because I don’t do a lot of hands on

things on the farm, I thought about how I could contribute to the industry — and that’s when my two

loves of fashion and wool merged. And the Iris was always Mum’s favourite flower, so the label is quite a tribute to her.


What’s the beauty of Australian merino wool?

Australia isn’t just the largest wool producer worldwide; it’s also home to this renewable, biodegradable, and sustainable yarn, made from Australian sunshine, grass and water. It’s the best fibre in the world — there’s no negative to it! I think it’s the way of the future — people want to wear things that are positive for the planet — and it’s an incredible fibre to work with as a designer. You don’t have to make a traditional chunky jumper — you can do fine crochet work and so much that people probably aren’t aware of. It’s a fabulous trans-seasonal fibre — it’s temperature-regulating,

odour resistant, can absorb up to 30 percent of its own weight and moisture, and it breathes. I even just worked out in wool — it’s amazing!

Who can wear your creations?

It’s predominantly a womens wear brand, but I’ve done a couple of men’s jumpers and wool-denim

jeans as well. And because I’ve got two small kids, there’s a small children’s collection — and we’ve actually just launched a collaboration with George the Farmer, with little kids’ jumpers that replicate the check shirt that George wears. It’s been a good collaboration — we’re both South Australian and we’re trying to get the younger generation to think about what they’re choosing to wear and to go with natural fibres — so we’re starting the education as soon as possible.


You’ve achieved so much in five years. What’s been the highlight?

Our wool goes through intensive testing to be Woolmark certified for Australian wool each season, which is fantastic recognition and peace of mind for the customer that they’re getting top quality. And then being stocked in David Jones was a huge deal for the brand. I remember going to David Jones as a little girl with Mum at Christmas time to see all the gorgeous window displays and fashion, so to have my brand stocked there is such a thrill for a little country kid! 

To see it sitting pretty among massive brands like Camilla and Marc is just a real dream come true. It says a lot about the future of merino wool and sustainability of the fashion industry, too. I’m very honoured and grateful that they believe in the brand and supporting that. But it’s just as important to me that we are more than a fashion brand. We donate beanies to South Australian kids who are diagnosed with cancer through the Childhood Cancer Association, and we also donate $1 of each sale to that same charity as well.


What’s been the response from the South Australian ag community?

It’s been really heartwarming, actually. There’s been a lot of love and support from the regional community, and I think they’re chuffed with what I’m trying to do for the wool industry.

I think they appreciate that I’m showcasing the best fibre in the world that they produce so well.



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