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Crown Princess Mary of Denmark wearing Rigon head wear. Crown Princess Mary of Denmark wearing Rigon head wear. Featured
23 February 2018 Posted by 


Chance connection with Princess Mary
Special CCBA Feature by Dallas Sherringham
WHEN Crown Princess Mary of Denmark had her picture flashed around the world wearing a fashionable new hat, a massive cheer went up at Rigon Headwear in West Gosford.

You see, the always stunning, Australian born Crown Princess was wearing that hat because of a chance taken by the Director of Rigon Headwear, Tina Madsen-Walcott.

And like all great success stories, the Rigon Headwear rise to international acclaim has been the result of taking chances and backing themselves down through the years.

After learning about Mary’s hat and the fact that they took the tentative but bold decision to move here 10 years ago from the city, I was ultimately fascinated.

Part of that fascination came from Googling their excellent web site which proudly proclaim and tell it all in a few well chosen words:

 “With over 50 years millinery experience, Rigon Headwear is Australia’s leading hat company, supplying pharmacies, high end boutiques, local councils, schools, Myer stores and Cancer Council stores across Australia, as well many distributors across the globe—in short, we know a lot about hats!”

This is a story that just had to be told and I decided the company that markets their products all over the world from right here on the coast would make the perfect feature for CCBA.

But it had to be told the right way, through Rigon Headwear’s own words, so I decided to work with Tina with a question and answer feature

More about Princess Mary soon, but let’s start the Rigon Headwear story from the beginning:

Q: Firstly how did the business start?

A:  It started approximately 20 years ago by my husband Peter and his dad. They had both worked for a different hat company in Australia so they had very strong contact to the factories we use in China.  We are currently now working with the second generation factory owners in China, so the loyalty is very strong.

Q: Why did you move to the Central Coast? What attracted you here? 

A: We needed to purchase warehouses as we were renting in Sydney and it was very expensive and in a way, wasted money. We also needed more space and my husband had, as a child, spent a lot of time on the Central  Coast so that was the way we went. To start we purchased one warehouse but now we own four in West Gosford. Traffic was a big issue for us also living in Sydney.

 Q: What were your apprehensions? How were they resolved?

 A: It was, I guess, whether this lifestyle would suit us: moving out of Sydney? However being so close                     

 To Sydney we can easily get back and forward so it was all ok.

Q: Did lifestyle come into it? 

 A: Yes as I mentioned above, we were able to buy a house on the waterfront 10 years ago here on the Coast, so we added a few lifestyle factors which we would not have been able to afford in Sydney.

Q: How has the business grown and prospered?

A: We seem to increase our turnover every year and come up with new ideas how to re-invent ourselves to stay in-front of the competition.  We also constantly pick up new wholesalers for various countries in the world. Their orders will go directly to our factory in China from China directly to their country we help them set-up using our business model.

Q: The internet must have been a huge factor in your success story. You invested a lot of time and planning into your web site rigonheadware.com.au. Was that the key factor?

A: We do invest heavily in it and, yes, lately this does turn over more and more as the internet is the flavor of the month so to speak.  New photos and easy navigation is a key. We also look at using words on our site which will be picked up by search engines.

Q: How has the internet changed the business?

A: You have to have dedicated staff looking after this section of your business. You need to look at other sites to list your products on such as Amazon, but also sell direct to the public, not just to wholesalers. It has become a very important part of the business.

Q: Do you sell internationally?

A:  Yes we have wholesalers in several regions and countries including the USA, South Africa, New Zealand , Japan and, Europe.

Q: Do you design your headwear?

A: Yes I design and my husband does as well.

Q: How does the business work production wise?

 A: We only operate in Gosford as a wholesaler. Our manufacturing is in China mostly, with a bit from Vietnam and Madagascar. 

Q: The China connection is of great interest. How did that start?

It was started about 40 years ago by my father in law who was traveling back and forward having hats designed and produced in China.

Q: How do you manage and work with the Chinese? Do you have an agent or direct contact?

A: We visit three to four times a year as we have this very long standing relationship with the factories. We have a very strong loyalty between all parties involved.

Q: How is headwear evolving? What are the new trends and opportunities?

A: We are the licensee for the Australian Cancer Council and we manufacture all their headwear sold in Cancer Council shops around Australia. For every Cancer Council sun hat sold, 10 per cent of the wholesale cost of the hat is paid directly back to the Australian Cancer Council to support cancer research within Australia. Sun safety is a big thing and, yes, we try to make hats which people will actually wear. 

We also supply Christine Headwear for cancer suffers who have lost their hair through treatment. 

We have a huge range of outlets in Australia but we are always looking for new opportunities.

We are expanding into the tourist industry, providing branded headwear which can be designed to suit a particular tourist business. For example, one of our big tourism customers is the Sydney Opera House. They have 2 shops on in the foyer of the opera house and one down below close to the bar and restaurants. They are selling lots of our hats branded with the opera house logo . Just a few more thing if you think this is suitable.

Q: How important is quality and image?

A: Vital. For example, our Before Dark luxe collection is designer headwear for the discerning fashionista.  Styles are crafted from the highest grade raffia and other natural materials, sourced from far and remote places, such as, the island of Madagascar.  Our styles are constantly featured in Australian fashion magazines and used on fashion runways to support new fashion collections, like the recent launch of beachwear to David Jones’ elite customers.

Q: The Princess Mary context is fascinating. How did she come to be wearing your hat? Was it one that you designed?

A: Well I got the idea to make her a hat when she was in Australian some years ago, We made it from some very exclusive material and passed it to the Danish Consulate for them to pass it to Mary. The very next day she featured in many newspapers and also on TV in Australia wearing our hat. The same hat then featured on a book published about Mary. So all in all a win win situation created just by giving things a go.

Q: And finally, which other famous people have been noted wearing your hats?

A: Hmm, just from memory Hugh Jackman’s children, Russell Crows ex wife and many more

For more information go to www.rigonheadwear.com.au






Michael Walls
P: 0407 783 413
E: Michael@accessnews.com.au

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