Motherhood and business
Hopes, dreams, fears
At the beginning of 2017 after a swim at the Byron Bay pool I noticed a “for lease” sign up on the old DVD store in town. With hair still dripping wet and shoeless, I walked into the shop space and fell in love. At the same time I was booked in to do a trade show in Sydney to grow my wholesale (which had cost me every last penny) so my mom lent me the money for the shop’s deposit.
"One step closer to every fashion designer’s goal: your very own store to fill with your dreams; an extension of yourself; YOU presenting your creations to the world with the silent hope that it will make someone happy enough to buy your offering."
Btw, also 5 months pregnant and filled with ignorant bliss.
My partner and I drove down to Sydney with our Combi laden with samples and trade show paraphernalia, this was going to turn around my business (the brochure had promised). The tradeshow was filled with droves of “stylists” (wanting gifted items) and “online stores” (that weren’t live yet) that took all my goodie bags and left me with a sunken feeling.
It was a disaster, we packed up everything into our van we had also slept in and drove home in silence. My poor babydaddy, supporting my dreams unconditionally but also pushed to the limit with another one of my wild ideas.
Once back in Byron, I had 2 short weeks of free rent to get the shell of the DVD shop into a beautiful boutique space that would entice passers by to stay a while and maybe try on a new dress.
Now, I can make beautiful clothes with a frenzied passion but interiors is just not my thing. I will therefore forever be grateful to my generous friend Julie, of Whitewood design who stepped in and saved me from drowning in rattan (she literally had to say: “not everything can be rattan” haha).
The shop opening was a success, with my beautiful friends supporting me and me sighing a sigh of relief that we were finally open.
Photo of me and Julie from Whitewood interior designs
Front area of the Boutique, styled up for the grand opening, April 2017
My supportive partner (Paris) and I, 8 months pregnant
I continued to do the Sunday markets along with working in the store right up to 2weeks before Felix came. In retrospect I should have tried to take more time off but a lean business doesn’t have those luxuries, life goes on and we just try make it work. And honestly, I tried to ask people about how it would be when the baby came but no straight answer came. I naively thought I’d just bring the baby to the shop in a basket… (which I did, but as you can imagine not an easy task).
(1) Photo of me at the Byron Bay Sunday markets (2) Photo in my Bluesfest 2017 festival stall
Felix arrived on his due date early July, my beautiful boy.
At the risk of being too real, I will say this: I found motherhood hard. Breastfeeding was painful and I had weeks of mastitis. Babies don’t always nap when the important calls came through. Getting up early to finish a few things on the To Do List after being awake all night was impossible. But somehow we kept things going.
I have always been lucky to have beautiful shop assistants that have gone above & beyond, and the business could not have survived this time without their support. When Felix was 3 months old my mom came over from South Africa and all 3 of us started doing a few days in the shop, to help with staff costs and my amazing mom, trying to lift me out of the baby blues and inspire me to create again.
The Change Room "boyfriend seat" very soon became the “breast-feeding chair”.
Embracing my hippie roots, I have literally served customers while breastfeeding Felix in my arms. Some people found it confronting having a baby where they, the customer, were meant to be the centre of attention, but mostly people were supportive saying how lucky I was to have him there, and a few (mothers) would say you’re doing a good job, this must be hard – which for me was the best comment, an acknowledgement of the struggle of working mothers. The feelings of being torn between fiercely loving your baby but also wanting to do what you love. I can’t tell you the guilt I carried over this.
From about 5 months I was consistently bringing Felix into the shop with me a few days a week, the days were long, frustrating, beautiful and memorable. The food in the carpet counter balanced by the joy of being with him a little longer, knowing that a lot of working mums didn’t have this luxury. I set up a camp cot in the one change room and put noise cancelling headphones on him once he fell asleep for his nap.
Around his first birthday Felix took his first steps next to me in the boutique, my heart filled with pride seeing his little wobbly legs coming towards me but also a sense of dread with oh no, now I have to keep him in. I found a baby gate on Gumtree and put it at the shop’s front door with a hand painted “please come in” sign, most people asked where the puppy was 😊
There’s been a lot between then and now (he’s about to turn 3) I am a mom before anything else, if Felix is sick I drop everything (and hope the business lives to see another day, which it always does despite my anxiety around this). It’s cliché but he does teach me to not take things too seriously.
Felix sweet talking customers with his cute baby face
(1) Getting involved in a Bridesmaid's fitting (2) Sorting out the stock room, so helpful!
Thank you to the good humans who buy my designs, I mean ultimately I’m doing this all for you.
With love & good vibes,