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 hasn't 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 tones 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 to promote her brand.
"I have three House Of Cheri ladies - Jaye Hall, Jess Hoffmann and Carolyn Muir McNabb - gorgeous ladies who are extremely talentedhorsewomen, very competitive, kind, empathetic and all-round great people.”
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 www.houseofcheri.com.au or search "House of Cheri” on Facebook.
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