Dianne Cannon is rather different … apart from having a natural fibre clothing shop in Maleny called Rather Bizr… she is a committed alternate … a label first used in the 1960s to describe mainly young people who rejected conventional lives in favour of alternative options. Of course, many people from the 60s and 70s came to lead conventional lives, but not Dianne. Twenty-two years after setting up Rather Bizr in the main street of Maleny, she is still there, and still planning alternative ways of living and doing business. Dianne spoke with HT editor Michael Berry.
“I started putting in White Cloud products which now runs the Tree of Life shops around Australia. It just worked, and I was able to get fabrics that I couldn’t get in Australia… beautiful fabrics from India – rayons, silk and cottons and exotic velvets in colours of the rainbow. Their style of clothing is centuries old, from an industry that’s been there forever and Australia just didn’t have those skills of embroidery. There was a gap here for those people who wanted to dress in alternative ways – reflecting their individuality with flair ,colour and artistically designed fabrics that flowed with feeling and the exoticness of the east, shawls and scarves in exquisite designs.
It was a special time. For example, when the Maleny Folk festival came to town (1987-93), from the counter down to the end of the shop, you couldn’t see daylight. It was quite scary and exciting at the same time, there were so many people here the energy was peaceful and loving.”
“I guess I am a feeler. I can look at someone and really know what their colour is and what is going to bring them out. It’s what brings customers back too. I’ve had customers that have been with me forever.”
Dianne spotted the growing interest in natural fibres more than ten years ago. Hemp, bamboo and tree pulp were slowly making inroads and it was a trend that fitted with her alternate approach to business.
“I knew that every marketing seminar I had ever been to asked what is your point of difference.” She says with enthusiasm. “I asked myself, is there a market for what you’re doing in town? A couple of new Indian clothes shops had come in and I realised that I had to drop what I was doing and move into these new natural fibre and very basic products, she adds.”
When hemp clothing first came on the scene the fabric wasn’t well manufactured, and it was a controversial new product because of its link to marijuana. Politicians even had to change the rules in parliament to allow hemp to be grown here for fabric. However, Dianne persisted with the few manufacturers using hemp, bamboo and wood fibres. This was to be her new point of difference – all-natural products.
“I don’t like the shops that produce racks and racks of the same clothes all over Australia. Fortunately, most of the people that come in here think the same way and they are looking for something different.
“My view is that you should buy the natural product because it makes you feel good. Clothing is all about what feels good to wear. Also, hemp, bamboo and wood pulp don’t use the amount of sprays and water that cotton needs for example. I am very conscious that we have to consider our environment out there.”
For the past ten years at least, Dianne’s commitment to natural products has created a special niche. She has stuck with a few loyal suppliers who have also matured with the natural products, offering a broader range of designs and colours in reliable fabrics. When you ask Dianne for her secret to success she returns to her baseline – being different and taking the alternative route, it is essential for small business to have a point of difference.
“I still see myself as alternate. I like people dressing to express who they are and I probably don’t fit into the everyday square, but I am always sorting and looking for something that’s different, that’s eco friendly.”
“I originally embraced being alternate because everything about it made sense to me … alternative medicines, food, spiritualism … anything that gave me answers to being different. Spiritually, I accept no labels but I believe there is a higher self out there. I thank spirit every day for everything that comes my way and I just make sure every day to try and have empathy, compassion and spiritualism in my world.”
Ever the restless and creative spirit, Dianne is embarking on another project from her 30 acre property in Conondale. Twenty-eight years ago she was manufacturing clothes under her own clothing label – gooloo – which means where you find something special. Now she is creating another label.
“ I have just had samples made with someone who makes quality clothing in the Eumundi area. I can also get access to reliable quantities of wood pulp, bamboo and hemp fabrics. They’re dearer, like everything else about manufacturing in Australia, but I am trying to keep costs down so it’s still a viable market.
“I will have only clothes for women at first – in beechwood, tree pulp fibre, organic cotton and bamboo – new styles for the fuller figure that isn’t catered for at the moment. So, I am looking at the points of difference without getting lost in small ranges and selective colours.
“I want to keep this new venture simple, small and controllable. It will be mainly on-line so I could see myself moving out of the shop while maintaining my passion for design and for clothing that is alternate. I also want to put more time into my sculptures I have so much to explore there.
As I said at the beginning, Dianne Cannon is rather different. in the Hinterland Times Ph: 54 999 049