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The Designer Interview: Simon & Steve Smith from Toorallie


In the late 90s, identical twins Simon and Steve Smith took over Australian knitwear label Toorallie from their parents. Under the weight of almost 200-years of inherited generational experience in the Australian Merino wool industry, the Smith brothers undertook the seemingly Sisyphean task of modernising a knitwear brand that has been steeped in traditional practices and designs. The goal was simple, to ensure the continuation of a near two-decade long legacy that began as a visionary merino sheep stud in 1825.

With the rise of offshore production and increasing market saturation of knitwear in the 1990s, it was evident that, for the family’s legacy to be preserved and sustained, Toorallie had to evolve.


Despite the daunting thought of a 200-year history in the industry resting heavily on Simon and Steve’s shoulders, it is this very history and inherited expertise that the brothers use to demonstrate their appreciation for the craft, expressing their unique understanding of working with wool of the finest quality through each seasonal release.

With one foot firmly grounded in traditional craft, Toorallie offers a modern interpretation of classic knitwear silhouettes, focusing on practicality and functionality, all the while maintaining a contemporary approach to design. The label delivers effortlessness to daily dressing, from women’s fine merino wool layering essentials to luxurious, versatile outerwear.

Toorallie understands that a quality garment begins with quality materials, this is why each individual fleece of wool used to create their collections is hand-selected at the label’s partner woolshed in New South Wales, Australia. The brand employs meticulous procedures that ensure that only the softest, resilient, and long-lasting wool is used to shape each style they produce.

Below, in conversation with The Forme, Simon and Steve Smith discuss how they started work at their family’s business, each season’s design process, and what is coming up next for Toorallie.


We are excited about getting to know you both and learning where the desire to continue the family business came from. Can you tell us what inspired you to continue your parent’s legacy at Toorallie?

“We grew up on the Toorallie farm near Bombala, rural New South Wales. Toorallie is in our DNA and we have invested our time and money in the business since we were in our 20’s.”

"In the early 2000’s, the brand was struggling and instead of our parents closing it we bought the license from them and moved to Melbourne. The thought of not continuing to grow Toorallie never crossed our minds: it was always a question of how. The opportunity to work for ourselves is special and it’s hard to put a value on it, underlying this we have this sense of wanting to finish what our parents started."

How does your design process begin each season? Where do you look to for inspiration?

“Simon, co-director and production manager, works closely with our senior art director and fashion designer Carly Hunter. Each season begins with reflection, the success and challenges of the previous season are analysed to inform subsequent changes or continuations of certain styles, colours, fits, and textures. Feedback from our flagship store assists in understanding what our customers want, too.”

"Toorallie isn’t a hard trend-driven brand so inspiration is often drawn from outside the fashion-world: art galleries, books, furniture, architecture, and films serve to inspire the collection. Vintage knitwear and the Toorallie archive from the 1990’s can lend interesting ideas on silhouettes, textures, or colours. Our design is above all informed by our ethos of practical, considered garments made through our own innovation and unwavering commitment to quality."


With one foot firmly grounded in traditional craft, Toorallie offers a modern interpretation of classic knitwear silhouettes. What are some of the golden rules you adhere to when designing each collection to ensure the longevity and versatility of each piece?

“Our aim to redesign wool into the lives of modern people, by creating beautifully useful garments that express wool’s many natural and sustainable benefits.”

"There are 3 elements at the core of Toorallie: the material (Australian merino wool, Responsible Wool Standard certified and a circular fibre), the style (timeless and practical), and the make (we partner with factories who are specialists in their field and meet our exacting standards)."

"Toorallie garments are made to last a lifetime. By designing practical pieces our garments last season after season and act as a central pillar in our customer’s wardrobe, worn easily with other pieces they already own and love. Each season our collection has a couple of unique pieces with a story behind them, like our latest collaboration with Melbourne artist Hannah Maskell. This balances our seasonal offering and creates a different dimension and narrative."

Sustainable practices are being more of a focus for brands, how is Toorallie navigating these initiatives and how are they making changes in terms of production and business practices?

“Our approach to sustainability is frank: the fashion industry will never be truly circular. In response to this we create garments to stand the test of time and uphold uncompromising standards of care towards land, animal and community welfare in every partnership.”

"We believe that the act of dressing with intention is powerful. At the core of Toorallie is Australian merino wool: a natural and regenerative fibre which is traceable and incredibly durable. We honour this age-old fibre through timeless styles made of undeniable quality."

How do you recount your process for creating the Winter 2024 mood board?

“Our mood boards are physical and highly visual. Images are printed out and pinned to a large board, sticky notes and coloured pins are added and subtracted across the weeks as we negotiate and discuss the next collection. It begins as a collection of images: art, architecture, sculpture, pattern, styling elements, and knitwear swatches. Colour is a significant element, too, and is usually a starting point which gets pushed and pulled in our design meetings.”

"The Winter 24 colour palette was inspired by Bauhaus artist Anni Albers’ work ‘Black, White, Red’, ‘Intersection’, and ‘With Verticals’. Her pencil drawings were also some of the first pinned on the mood board and provided subtle inspiration for the fine knitted textures in the collection. Our mood boards go through many iterations so it’s exciting to see what endures and makes its way into a garment."


How important is educating the Toorallie customer in knitwear terminology and processes?

“We believe that understanding how things are made will form a deeper appreciation for what you wear and the time that goes into its creation. It also means you are more likely to care for your knitwear properly, and by doing so lengthen its life by respecting the material.”

"Growing up on the Toorallie farm we have a first-hand understanding of the raw materials and the layered processes which lead to the final garment. Not many people do and we feel it is our duty to educate people of these processes so they can buy our considered, practical garments with intention and conviction."

What plans are in place to further the evolution of the label and encourage a “must have” mindset towards the pieces in your collection?

“People are starting to question why their clothes are made poorly, of synthetic fibres, and just don’t last. We are noticing people are starting conversations and rejecting single-wear items, they are beginning to switch to natural fibres and prioritise quality over quantity. We are here to have that conversation and commit to educating our customers to understand that what they wear matters: for themselves and the environment. We want to help our customers purchase with intention and look after their garments so they last season after season.”


What’s next for Toorallie?

“Our next goal is to secure a footing in the northern hemisphere. As a knitwear brand we thrive in cooler climates, and while Melbourne [where our Head Office and Flagship Store are based] can get pretty cold the northern hemisphere is even colder. It would be incredible to see Australian merino wool celebrated for its inimitable natural benefits and Toorallie garments worn across Europe and northern America.”