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Material girl

autumn 2017

CINDY VOGELS, MILLINER TO the stars, is building her empire on the sewing machines she grew up with. 
In fact, she says her machines are extensions of herself.
“My sewing machines are older than I am; they’re my mum’s.”
Cindy is keeping it in the family, working at home, with her mum, on machines she learned to sew on as a child. 
Though plenty of people have seen Cindy’s designs, few probably realise she handcrafts each unique piece at home in Gympie, and her mum is still her head machinist. 
When she speaks to salt, Cindy is in the shade of a frangipani tree in her front yard.
Magpies are warbling as this fiercely independent creative talks about her life. 
In 2013, as a single mother of four, Cindy was afraid she’d lost connections in the industry, but was determined to stay home and run her business around the needs of her family.
One morning she met a speaker at a business networking event.
The speaker told Cindy to come out from “behind the curtain” and that it was time for her to step into the light. 
It resonated.
“I was afraid of stepping into the light,” Cindy says.
“It’s not an easy thing to do.
Now I just hope I’m standing in that light with gratitude and humanity.”
Cindy shared a photo on social media of a magnificent feathered headpiece alongside some clothing she’d made.
Lady Gaga’s people snapped up the bespoke headpiece and the humble milliner attracted global attention when Lady Gaga wore it. 
For four months she worked with Lady Gaga.
This time gave Cindy an understanding of what it took to work with a music artist of the highest calibre.
Taking that insight and applying it to her business, Cindy says she felt like an accidental entrepreneur.
She says, “I really just aligned myself with good people and worked hard.” 
Since then, Cindy has been busy developing a line of clothing (under the label Racy & Lucky) favoured by country music stars including Golden Guitar winner Caitlyn Shadbolt and local singer-songwriter Cassi Hilbers. 
Juggling family demands and a business, Cindy lives by to-do lists.
“I look at it as a holistic list to do the things I need to do to earn a good night’s sleep.
It came out of baby brain.
I love crossing things off, even if it’s just a dentist’s appointment.”
A typical day for Cindy revolves around her work and her children.
She divides her time between designing, sourcing fabric, sewing and invoicing, although she laughs and says, “The child in me would sew for candy.” 
Often working through the night, Cindy still manages to find the energy to spend as much time as possible with her children before and after school.
“I feel like I owe it to my children to share what I have inside and what I can contribute to this world.
I think that’s the best gift I can give my children, to show them who I am.”
If an item of clothing can provide insight into who we are, it’s worth noting that Cindy prizes her red high heels “because of Juliette Binoche in Chocolat.
The daughter asks, ‘Why can’t you wear beige shoes like all the other mummies?’
She replies, ‘Ahhh, because I’m not like all the other mummies, my dear.’”
As an intuitive artist, Cindy puts her trust in the creative process.
“I’ve painted for years and I didn’t want Racy & Lucky to become a stressful business, so I’ve almost built it as a therapeutic art form.”
“I realised I was very, very lucky to combine something I had loved as a child and fulfil a purpose.
I’ve been doing this my whole life and I just didn’t know where it fit.
We all know something we’re good at and something we enjoy, but when you know how it all fits together you begin to attract miracles.” 
Cindy is reminded of a quote she recently shared with her followers, “A grateful heart attracts miracles.”
Cassi Hilbers is one of the miracles Cindy has attracted.
The 15-year-old wears a back brace, which inhibits her ability to dress for each stage performance.
With this in mind, Cindy and Cassi worked together to create two designs for the singer’s appearances at the Tamworth Country Music Festival.
The designs were a hit, and testament to Cindy’s ability to effortlessly combine her unique skill set with a deeper understanding of her client’s needs.
Cindy says she enjoys the collaborative creative process as much as seeing the final product on her clients.
“I’m at so many festivals these days and I’m always dressing the headline act but I’m also interested in the 15-year-olds who are up at three o’clock.
I’ll offer them a T-shirt and a one-time sponsorship so their first video clip looks more amazing than they ever imagined.
It’s really lovely to gift an up-and-coming music artist, especially the girls.
Racy & Lucky has become a bit of a girl power label because unfortunately the girls have a smaller window in the industry.
I’m very much about helping the young female artist in their early years.”  
As for the future of her business, Cindy is happy to allow it to “do its thing”. 
“I see great growth the way I’m doing it; it’s an intuitive, artful process.
My family will always come first and it’s about finding that balance and growing at a rate that we’re happy with.
I love that my children can come into my studio and do their homework while Mummy’s working.
I love that my kids are so close.
I love that my kids are my closest audience and they are learning about business in this unusual way.”
“It’s why I’m not in a hurry.
I want the business that I run to feel good for me and everyone involved, and if that takes another five years it doesn’t matter to me.
I just want to keep doing beautiful work with good energy.”
words xanthecoward photos kristaeppelstun