It was a dream that was 13 years in the making, with the Clifton Hill store being launched on Thursday night to a big crowd, including special guest Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud.
Toorallie director Steven Smith said as the business grew, it was a natural next step to open a store.
“With business continuing to grow, we felt it was time to showcase the brand with a flagship store,” Mr Smith said.
“It was important for us to provide a bricks and mortar space that reflects who we are and our proud heritage, upgrading our first Melbourne shop front felt fitting.”
Toorallie chairman Peter Small said the store provides an opportunity for city consumers to understand the supply chain of the clothing they purchase.
“Consumers really want to know about the provenance of the products they buy, and if someone comes into the store, they can ask about where the product comes from, and get detailed information about it,” Mr Small said.
“We can share the entire supply chain link, from where it starts at shearing, to where it goes to China to be made out of the designs created in Melbourne, and then how it comes back to Australia for retailing.
“They also want to know that the animals have been looked after and well-treated, and the property we source wool from has very strong policies on animal welfare.”
He said Toorallie has an incredibly interesting backstory, having grown out of the collapse of the reserve price scheme in the early 1990s.
“After the reserve price crashed, Peter and Claire Smith, [Bombala, NSW,] decided they wanted to turn their wool into knitwear, so they created Toorallie named after their farm,” he said.
“Today their sons Simon and Steven are joint managing directors, and key members of the team.
“Also at the time of the collapse, Charles Massy and Jim Watts created Quality Soft Wools, a business built on the concept of keeping better-styled wool from the average wool, to make a better-finished garment.
“Because of globalisation, both brands began to struggle, so by the end of the 1990s, whilst both brands had gained a lot of experience, they were exhausted, and decided to team up in 2005 to create the modern Toorallie.”
Since then, Mr Small said the team has been “working away quietly”.
“We’re mainly wholesalers, selling a wide range of knitwear through 250 boutique stores in Australia and New Zealand,” he said.
“We have a fantastic range, and we wanted somewhere where we could show off the entire range, which is why we opened the flagship store.”
Toorallie now sources its wool from Pooginook, on the Riverina Plains of NSW.
“When I was buying wool back in the 90s, I was buying from a lot of good properties, and one of the places that performed particularly well was Pooginook,” he said.