20 May 2023

Braidwood duo has designs on New York

| Siobhan O'Brien
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Dena Pharaoh-Pezzano and Jane Magnus - the creative force behind the Saloon

Dena Pharaoh-Pezzano and Jane Magnus – the creative forces behind the Saloon Design House – pictured in their Braidwood headquarters. Photo: Saloon.

What do Australian actor Naomi Watts and New York-based media doyenne Laura Brown have in common? They both own and wear clothes from Braidwood’s Saloon Design House.

The clothing label that goes by the same name has a global reach for good reason.

These ethically made, limited edition garments that are designed and made in a historic building in the heart of Braidwood are not your standard fare. They are best described as a study in contrasts that blur the boundaries between costume and the everyday. Think Picnic at Hanging Rock meets Paris Texas. Picture dainty Liberty of London prints fused with bold block colours. Or street-sweeping dresses teamed with mid-calf cowboy boots.

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Doubtless, the outfits that emerge from Saloon conjure a visual and emotive tug-of-war that somehow makes them timeless.

Co-owner and designer Dena Pharaoh-Pezzano explains.

Shop interior

The interiors of Saloon Design House located on Wallace Street Braidwood. Photo: Saloon.

“Tough but pretty is the term one of our customers used to describe our work,” she says. “It’s perfect.”

“Our trademark is femininity with a feminist edge. We draw the inspiration for our work from counterculture across the decades, but it also celebrates rural life in Braidwood. We love the fresh air, the big spaces, and the strong women from the town’s past and present.”

Saloon is the fusion of talent between Dena and designer/cutter Jane Magnus. The business partners met at the local preschool drop-off in 2015. It was a fortuitous union.

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“I’d worked as a freelance fashion designer for Dragstar and Kirrilly Johnston and also a costume designer in film and theatre before I relocated to the country,” Dena says.

“I was looking to spread my wings, make a change, do something for myself. Then I met Jane who was also keen to kick-start her own business and things organically evolved between us.”

Part of the label’s appeal is the bricks and mortar in which it is housed. The Saloon HQ is a rustic 132-year-old building on the town’s main strip, Wallace Street. It features vaulted ceilings, hardwood floors and an oversized chandelier. Racks on either side of the space include the bespoke clothing collection – that’s launched twice yearly – and vintage cowboy boots sourced from around the globe.

Specialising in patternmaking and couture dressmaking, Dena brings her dressmaking and tailoring skills to the mix. Jane focuses on practicalities such as cutting and content creation for social media.

Dena and Jane stand in front of the 132 year old building that is a fixture on Braidwood’s Wallace Street.

Dena and Jane stand in front of the 132-year-old building that is a fixture on Braidwood’s Wallace Street. Photo: Saloon.

“We work together really well and we’ve created something that surpasses our expectations,” Dena says. “But it’s given us wings to run our own race, do things our way. We co-design everything and embrace slow, ethical fashion in a world where everything moves too quickly. Our clothes are fundamentally about great tailoring and an excellent fit.

“We create clothes that our customers will love for many years to come and our intention is to keep things real and authentic.”

It’s little wonder this down-to-earth Australian endeavour resonates with customers from as far away as the streets of New York.

In a 132-year-old building on Braidwood’s Wallace Street sits Saloon, a small clothing business with global appeal. We caught up with owners Dena and Jane to find out more.

Saloon, 139 Wallace Street, Braidwood is open from Thursday to Sunday or by appointment.

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