There is no other fabric shop like Voodoo Rabbit. In their own words, “They specialise in a range of fabrics and sewing supplies that match their own tastes — eclectic, rockabilly, retro, vintage, punk, sleek geek, dark and ‘a bit goth.’ … Voodoo Rabbit loves skulls, cherries, black, red, white, space invaders, cotton textiles and all things heart shaped.” First, I’m tickled that rockabilly and goth subcultures exist in Australia! I also think it’s a pretty smart, with all the competition online these days, to specialize in a very identifiable genre of prints.
Before we get into the interview, the Voodoo Rabbit gals wanted to offer True Up readers a special discount — 10% off all Kokka products with code TRUEUP10. This offer lasts through next week, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011.
Where do you live? What is the textile/crafty scene like there?
We are based in Brisbane, Australia. Unfortunately quite a few small, independent haberdashery and fabric stores closed during the late 1990s. The larger (chain) stores expanded out into homewares and other premade items, reducing the size of their fabric and haberdashery sections in the process.
Textile manufacturing in Australia has also all but ceased. There are lots of new independent designers popping up and screenprinting their own designs or printing via Spoonflower now so that is a very encouraging sign.
In the last few years there has been a resurgence in handmade, sewing and dressmaking which we think has been helped along by the internet.
How and when did you start selling fabric?
We started in August of 2009 with a supply shop on Etsy. We were always hunting down skull / skeleton fabrics from Alexander Henry but couldn’t find any local stockists with a decent range. There weren’t many options in Brisbane for buying fabrics that were a bit goth / rockabilly / retro repro. We knew the designs were out there – we just decided to open up a shop to bring it closer to home for everyone else.
How did you come up with your name? We actually started off with the name “Crafternoon Delight.” We brainstormed for a while, writing down the things we liked and words that fit with our shop theme. Eventually we settled on Voodoo Rabbit. It is cute but a little bit dark – just like the fabric designs that we prefer.
What surprised you most about the business?
How much time it takes up! It’s been two years now and we finally feel like we are on the brink of being an “overnight success.”
It is also surprising how long Australia has to wait for the new fabric releases compared to the rest of the world – we are nearly 3-6 months behind! It sometimes works to our advantage though. When the USA had sold out of Alexander Henry’s very popular Ghastlies range we were just receiving our stock and we had a lot of orders from people that could not get it anywhere else.
We were also surprised at how surprised our overseas customers are at how quickly their orders arrive. Lucky for us, Australia Post is extremely efficient!
How would you characterize your shop?
Fun. We always love new shipments of fabric / buttons. We spend a lot of time making sure our range is different from other stores. Not having a shop front gives us a lot of freedom as well – we do a lot of market stalls around the city (great way to meet new customers) and also take our stock to sewing groups. People seem to really be taking to the idea of having the fabric shop come to them.
What are your hot sellers right now?
The Ghastlies by Alexander Henry is always a hot seller for us. Kokka fabrics get lots of interest too, especially the Echino prints. There is a Kokka Trefle Music print that is also doing quite well at the moment. We have had a lot of people interested in our soft cube toy kits and also bag patterns at markets. I think people are looking for quick, easy projects to get them started on sewing.
Are you online only, or do you have a brick & mortar shop? If you don’t have one, are you planning to open one?
We would love to have a little brick and mortar store but with the economic environment being as it is now and the high cost of shop rental in Brisbane we feel that staying predominantly online is the best way to go. Fabric showings / parties are a new option that we are offering in Brisbane.
Do you run the shop alone or do you have help?
Voodoo Rabbit is run by myself and my sister-in-law Cloud. We ring in a bit of help from the rest of the family when the situation calls for it.
Is this your full time job? If not, what else do you do to pay the bills?
It is my full time job since I was made redundant from my last job in the computer games industry (another victim of the economic crisis) just over a year ago. Cloud works as a payroll officer by day.
How do you deal with the challenges of the current economy, and increasing competition in the retail fabric business?
It is hard! We are beginning to have more and more repeat customers. Our customer service and quirky range seems to be working well for us. By staying as an online only store we are able to keep costs down (and our prices) but it is hard to be ‘found’ without a physical shop presence. Very rarely do we find the same fabrics that we stock in the stores in Brisbane. We either have the colours that other stores may feel are too ‘risky’ to stock or we have designs that they just won’t stock.
We are also prepared to go to where our customers are, rather than waiting for them to come to us. Lately we’ve been holding a stall at our local Roller Derby bouts (go the Sun State Roller Girls!).
The other biggest challenge is photographing the stock, as we a predominately online our photos need to look true to life and the colours as accurate as possible.
What are the (other!) biggest challenges — and biggest rewards — of being a fabric merchant?
We get first dibs on the good stuff! It is really hard to choose fabrics months in advance. Anticipating what trends will be popular can be really tricky.
What’s your personal stash like?
It has a lot of fabric from Japan in it. Since opening a store though I find myself buying less fabric because if I really like it we get it for the shop and then I pilfer a little as I need it
Who are your favorite designers, from the past and/or from the present?
I think our favorite designers are Nicole and Phillip from Alexander Henry. The Ghastlies is one of our favourite designs and biggest sellers and Skulls from Nicole’s prints was the catalyst for us opening our store. Cloud is totally in love with Monica Solorio-Snow‘s fabrics – Holiday Happy and Happy Mochi Yum Yum for Lecien are particular faves. Both of us love Michael Miller Novelties prints (someone in their design team loves tongue in cheek retro as much as we do) and anything from Kokka.
Thanks so much, Kylie and Cloud!
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