Three women model dresses from Saloon Design House in the burnt forest surrounding Braidwood.
Saloon Design House in Braidwood is inspired by the women of Braidwood, both past and present, with locals modelling each collection. Photos: Asha Kidd.

Saloon Design House, on Braidwood’s main street, has become a part of the fabric of the country town’s community.

Owned by Jane Magnus and Dena Pharaoh, Saloon is now an icon of Wallace Street with its collection of ‘liberated prairie’-style dresses, skirts and vests – designed in Braidwood and sewn in both Braidwood and Sydney.

The brand began when Dena, a dressmaker, met Jane, who happened to own an empty shop. Saloon quickly became a love letter to the women of Braidwood as locals pitched in to get the business up and running – those local women now model each collection.    

Saloon’s co-owners Jane Magnus (left) and Dena Pharaoh.

“You could say it was a bit of a tour de force from the whole community to get it up and going,” says Jane.

“And then since then we’ve always said that Saloon was inspired by the women of Braidwood, both past and present.”

The tight-knit community again rallied together earlier this year when bushfires ravaged the region. Jane and Dena’s new collection was derailed when they were forced to close due to the conditions, but the outpouring of support from around the country from people looking to spend their money in fire-affected regions spurred them to create their Phoenix collection.  

“The whole collection has batik detailing sprinkled throughout it, and we have full batik dresses which we’ve named inspired by the bushfire event,” says Jane.

The community once again came together to shoot the entire collection, right on the edge of the Monga and Budawang National Parks.

“They had literally been fighting fires the day before and had heat rash across their chests from being so close to the fires, and smoky hair,” Jane says.

“We were driving past active fire and smoke to get there, so that made it very real.”

She says while they were able to keep working behind the scenes when the bushfires hit, COVID-19 has “taken the wind out from under our wings”.

With five kids between them to home-school during the shutdown, and fabric delays from the UK and Italy, Saloon’s latest collection has been delayed by six months. Jane says, however, the strong community continues to support one another and accepted the “new reality with great grace”.

“For anyone in Braidwood, it’s the climate that we’re worried about,” she says. “Much more than the pandemic. We felt truly devastated by the loss of our forests and continue to be incredibly worried about what will happen in the future.”

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