#SheInspires Tracey Watkins

February 20, 2019

I first became aware of fashion designer Tracey Watkins early in her design career. You see one of my friends bought a piece from White Label Noba at Hummingbird the shop even before Tracey had the stand alone stores in Hawthorne and Ascot. My friend still wears her first White Label Noba piece with pride and has added to her collection substantially throughout the years.

At events I would admire friends in sparkly bomber jackets, colourful maxi skirts, sequinned pants , capes and distinctive and very pretty tops. Yet it was only this year at the launch of Tracey’s Wanderlust collection that I acquired my first piece- a lovely star sequin top in a soft pink and silver. I love it and can never wear it without receiving many compliments.  After being dressed in White Label Noba for the recent Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week I know how easy the designs are to wear and I was constantly being asked about the label and who was behind it. I set out to find out more about White Label Noba and the founder, owner and designer of the label, the inspiring Tracey Watkins.

Tracey’s collection  for Spring/ Summer is called Wanderlust and is a nod to the colours and whimsy of Monet’s Spring and the beauty of wanderlust. It features subdued pastel hues, ethereal shapes, fabrics as light as sunshine and pieces that pay tribute to femininity. When I meet with Tracey she is busy overseeing the creation of her collection for Autumn/ Winter which she is very excited about. She is also still on a high after having Zara Phillips wear White Label Noba for the second time at The Gold Coast Magic Millions. A real coup for any Australian designer!

Tracey was inspired to become a fashion designer because she had always struggled to find clothing and at 47 she decided to change her life and make the clothing she’d always wished that she could find. It began at her own kitchen bench.

Tracey truly believes that any woman can be stylish no matter their size, age or body types. However in the media all she saw was the women who were a size 8 or 10. Tracey wanted to cater for a different niche in the market. White Label Noba grew organically from this ethos. This luxe lifestyle business has now been running for over eight years with Tracey transitioning  from her interior design business to fashion. White Label Noba has become one of Australia’s best loved brands and caters for all women.

As a lifestyle brand White Label Noba is constantly inspired by the White Label Noba Woman and the different aspects of her life. As the label grows Tracey gets to know her clients and the brand evolves to meet the White Label Noba Woman’s needs, whether that be through growing the range or opening a new store.

As White Label Noba is a small, boutique brand Tracey says, “ I am involved in all aspects of the design process. I believe it’s an innate thought process that is difficult to articulate, particularly as it varies between seasons. I do look at trends and follow the global happenings, but I don’t follow them. I will reinterpret them for the White Label Noba Woman and make it wearable for her. For a piece to make it into production I have to love it passionately. The winter collection that is coming I LOVE, it’s been fun to design.”

I asked Tracey about her customers and who wears her designs. She said, “It’s hard to define the White Label Noba Woman as I design for women with a certain attitude or lifestyle, rather than an age or size. What I can say though is that each woman who wears White Label Noba makes it their own. Some make it look fabulously bohemian, others wear it simply and classically. It’s beyond inspiring to see.”

Tracey recently dressed Zara Phillips in her pale pink ‘ Scarlett’ dress for the Magic Millions and the media went wild. I remember reading an article in the Daily Mail and  the story was on almost every news outlet. Zara looked fresh, happy and stunning in the dress so I had to ask Tracey about this special moment. It still seems unbelievable to this down to earth designer.

Tracey agrees, “ Dressing Zara was a surreal experience. It almost feels like it didn’t happen. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to have this global exposure and that the experience was such a wonderful one. Zara is lovely, humble and obviously looks amazing in White Label Noba.”

Tracey’s inspiration comes from, “ Anything aesthetic…. It may be a building, a texture, a photograph, a piece of art….. inspiration is everywhere. Prints are always an integral part of each White Label Noba Collection. As a child of the 60’s I grew up surrounded by iconic designers like Mary Quant and Emilio Pucci. How they mixed prints is still inspiring to me.”

Tracey’s own style is cool, relaxed and classic with an unexpected twist. I ask who she’d like to dress. I had already guessed the answer!

“I’d love to dress Cate Blanchett, she’s flawless and my Australian favourite.”

Others I’ve seen wearing White Label Noba are Amy and Emma Sheppard from the band Sheppard , newsreader Melissa Downes, journalist and style guru Nikki Parkinson from ‘ Styling You’ and Kath Rose from Kath Rose and associates. Kath’s cool and stylish wedding dress was from White Label Noba. Radio host Abby Coleman recently wore White Label Noba on the cover of U on Sunday.

Many customers add to their existing White Label Noba Collection each season and it’s easy to mix and match pieces from every season. My first outfit for Paris Fashion Week combined a top from last winter with a new season skirt and a gorgeous Queensland winter weight coat.

Tracey’s favourite fabrics to work with are, “ Natural fabrics that feel beautiful on the skin and get better with age. Lots of soft linens, silks and buttery soft leather.”

I know many aspiring and emerging designers so I ask Tracey what advice she would give them. She advises, “ Surround yourself with people who have skills better than your own and a creative person needs a business advisor from the outset.”

As I’ve just come home from my favourite city, Paris I have to ask Tracey which cities and places inspire her. Tracey says,” I mean you can’t beat the Australian beaches but on a more global scale definitely New York. A friend once told me to always look up in New York as there is a whole world happening in the buildings above and it is so true.”

Tracey Watkin’s Brisbane Label – White Label Noba continues to go from strength to strength. It’s easy to see why when you stand inside one of her beautifully decorated stores in Hawthorne or Ascot. They are each a treasure trove of covetable garments with amazing colours, fabrics and accessories to match, full of carefully curated pieces for all women. It’s lovely to witness the joy on women’s faces as they exit the change rooms in a new piece.  The fact that Tracey embarked on her design journey at 47 and is still full of passion and joy for each new season’s collection is so inspiring and warrants her tagline- Love White Label Noba. I can’t wait to see the new pieces for Autumn/ Winter and wonder who we will see next wearing this proudly Australian label. Tracey Watkins celebrates women of all ages, sizes and shapes and makes each and every one of us look stylish, beautiful and comfortable in what we are wearing and that is why #SheInspires.

Michelle Beesley
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.

Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).

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