In a high profile career spanning 40 years, Keri Craig-Lee, multi award-winning fashion designer and businesswoman, has played a pivotal role in the emergence of Australian fashion as a global industry. Keri is a successful businesswoman and entrepreneur who has created a pathway for other women to follow.
A proud Queenslander, Keri has also been a key influencer in the evolution of Brisbane from a ‘big country town’ to an international city. Keri’s significant contributions to Australian fashion were honoured with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the 2017 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, for service to the clothing manufacturing sector, to business, and to the community.
Building a fashion empire: In 1977, at just 19 years of age, Keri designed and launched her first collection and the Keri Craig label was established. Wholesaling to nationwide retailers from major department stores: Myer, David Jones, Grace Brothers, Georges of Melbourne, Aherns in Perth, and Robinsons in Singapore to exclusive boutiques countrywide, Keri Craig was the first Queensland brand to achieve this. As such, Keri paved the way nationally for Queensland designers, and eventually entered the international market, exporting to New Zealand, the South Pacific, Noumea, Singapore, Hong Kong and America.
The design headquarters comprised of a factory and a showroom in Fortitude Valley. The retail network included three locations in the Brisbane Arcade, the flagship store in Brisbane’s Wintergarden and an exclusive boutique in Sydney’s prestigious Double Bay. This culminated in the Keri Craig Emporium which continues as a pre-eminent retailer in the iconic Brisbane Arcade.
Keri was actively engaged in building the platform for Queensland’s fashion industry – volunteering as a judge for countless events and awards. She wrote a weekly fashion column for ‘Flair’ in the Daily Sun newspaper. In addition, Keri was the first Queenslander to sit on the Federal Executive Committee for Fashion Industries of Australia (FIA).
Keri’s feminine and classic designs became the choice of famed national and international celebrities, political notables, business icons and film and television personalities. A celebrity in her own right, Barry Humphries as Dame Edna aimed her gladioli at Keri whilst mercilessly roasting her as the chosen target during his Brisbane run.
Awards & Recognition: In 1979, Keri won the first of many business awards for manufacturing. Over the ensuing years, she won in excess of 50 fashion awards, including Queensland Fashion Awards, Queensland Fashion Logie Awards and the Retailers Association of Queensland (RAQ) Fashion Design Awards.
Keri was the first winner of the RAQ’s coveted Supreme Award in 1981, and then again in 1982 and 1986. In 1987, she became the first inductee into the RAQ Hall of Fame. Keri was the first Queensland designer to be a finalist in the FIA Awards in 1989. In 2000, Keri was awarded the first and only RAQ Certificate of Excellence.
Keri presented a garment to Princess Diana and danced with HRH Prince Charles during the royal couple’s 1983 Australian tour. Keri Craig certainly put Australian fashion into the international spotlight with the commission to design and coordinate Sir Elton John’s first wedding in 1984.
Woman of substance: Keri is widely acknowledged as one of Queensland’s most successful businesswomen. At 26 years of age she was honoured with the Zonta Club of Brisbane’s Woman of Achievement Award. Two years later, she was featured on a television documentary which profiled Queensland’s top ten successful women.
Keri served as a judge of the Queensland Tourism Awards, an Honorary Ambassador for Brisbane, Brisbane Ambassador for Expo 88 and Brisbane Tourism Ambassador. She was one of the original members of the Queensland division of the Women Chiefs of Enterprise International and, since 2015, has served on the Premier’s Business Advisory Council. In the same year, Keri was awarded the inaugural St Margaret’s Distinguished Past Student Award for significant contribution and achievement in her profession, community and volunteer work.
A tireless supporter of numerous charities including community organisations, scholarships for schools and universities, fundraising events and employment incentives, Keri remains benevolent and engaged.