A hand-made touch to Australian knitwear
By Emma Hartley
From regular customer, to part-time worker, and now running her own store, Wendy Voon had a strong relationship with the Queen Victoria Market (QVM) long before setting up Wendy Voon Knits.
“I used to enjoy going there as a customer. I loved the fresh produce and just the atmosphere really,” Ms Voon said.
Wendy Voon Knits has been at QVM for around five years, selling scarves, wraps and clothing designed and created in Melbourne.
The store has sold other independent labels as well and has only stocked Australian-made products – an impressive feat considering the small size of Australia’s knitwear industry.
Ms Voon has used a domestic knitting machine to make her products – the machine is manually driven and has given her knits a hand-made touch.
“If you look at the designs close up, it’s quite apparent that they haven’t been made by an industrial machine,” she said.
A machine has been set up in the store itself and that means during quieter times of the day, “whoever is working in the store can be making a jumper,” Ms Voon said.
“That also gives customers the opportunity to see what is involved in the process as well. It gives people an appreciation about how much work actually goes into making an item of clothing.”
Ms Voon dedicated eight years to a career in IT before she decided to pursue knitting commercially. She was grateful for the hands-on approach of her TAFE studies in textiles as that provided her with the skills she needed to start her own business.
“I had always been interested in clothing,” she said. “But I knew I just didn’t want to study fashion.”
Her part-time work at a fruit and vegetable store and then in a deli at the QVM meant that Ms Voon had plenty of support behind her when she started Wendy Voon knits.
“Having that association, you know a lot of faces and you know the people, and that’s really nice,” Ms Voon said.
She decided to take the plunge when, “One day I noticed that a whole lot of pop-ups had gone up in what was the old building on Therry St, which has since been knocked down … that was kind of perfect – to try it out for four months.”
“It’s a pretty unique opportunity to be able to do that without a massive financial risk and I didn’t have to pay three months’ worth of rent and finalise a lease or anything like that,” she said.
Since then, Wendy Voon Knits has moved to Victoria St. “It kind of made sense to stay!” •