Spotlight on Margaret Porritt

Feathers matriarch on her passion for fashion

"My family's journey from Germany to England taught me the importance of determination," says Porritt.

Margaret Porritt founder of Feathers Boutique.
Margaret Porritt founder of Feathers Boutique.

Margaret Porritt’s fashion empire Feathers Boutique which she has run for 52 years, is a testament to resilience and creativity.

Speaking to The AJN, it is clear her career has been marked by a passion for design and an unwavering work ethic. From humble beginnings to becoming a stalwart in the Australian fashion industry, Porritt’s journey is inspiring.

Porritt is the daughter of a Jewish father and Lutheran mother. Her parents fled Germany in 1937, thanks to her mother’s Jewish boss, who sponsored the pair to travel to London. Eventually they set their sights on Australia, making Melbourne their new home.

Porritt attests her creativity to her mother, and business smarts to her father, and said, “My family’s journey from Germany to England taught me the importance of determination,” adding, “Their work ethic became the foundation of my own path.”

With a flair for fashion and an eye for design, Porritt embarked on her journey into the world of style. Her early experiences, including an apprenticeship with dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth II, Norman Hartnell, provided her with invaluable knowledge and skills.

“Working with Norman was a dream come true,” Porritt recalled. “It taught me the importance of craftsmanship and attention to detail.”

After working with Hartnell she undertook a millinery apprenticeship with her mother.

Despite numerous challenges, including economic downturns and shifting consumer trends, Porritt remained undeterred.

“There were times when I faced setbacks but I never let them define me. I used them as opportunities to learn and grow.”

Porritt was married at 20 and had three boys by the age of 26. The marriage ended after 12 years, leaving Porritt to forge her own path. She used the settlement from her divorce to purchase an investment property and put a deposit on The Orange Poodle, a clothing store where she was working at the time.

As her business took off, she opened more fashion stores. In 1972, she changed the name of The Orange Poodle and Feathers was born, stocking Australian designer labels.

In 1995, Porritt launched her own range known as Feathers by Margaret Porritt.

She has won numerous awards, including the Victorian Telstra Business Women’s Award, the Rag Trader’s Retailer of the Year and Most Inspiring Leader award at the 2023 Australian Retail Innovators Award. Porritt has also been inducted into the Business Women’s Hall of Fame and was recognised as the Metropolitan Fair Trader of the Year for Excellence in Customer Service.

She is now a mentor and role model to many. “I have been taught that one must share their knowledge with the people around them,” she said.

Today, Porritt’s fashion empire continues to thrive, a testament to her resilience and dedication.

“I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but I’m always looking ahead, eager to see what the future holds,” she said.

With her indomitable spirit and creative vision, she has truly carved out a lasting legacy in the world of fashion.

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